Stephen Scurr tells Laurence Eastham how the ICAS Foundation supported his university studies and put wind beneath the wings of his business career
Since its launch in 2012, the ICAS Foundation has helped more than 200 young people to pursue studies in accountancy and finance at university. As well as helping students to enter and complete higher education courses, it also empowers them to kickstart their careers and pursue longer-term aspirations in business.
One ICAS Foundation success story is Stephen Scurr, who graduated with a degree in business studies from the University of Edinburgh in 2017. Scurr was one of the first students to be supported by the Foundation, starting his university course in 2013, and is now managing three businesses in Edinburgh. He is a director of food companies Bonnie Burrito and the Bonnie Sauce Company and, in November last year, launched Orders Made Simple, a stock-ordering app for small businesses to manage inventories and invoicing.
When looking ahead to university, and relying on income from part-time work in a fast-food restaurant, Scurr was introduced to the work of the ICAS Foundation by his high-school guidance teacher. It proved to be a perfect fit. Upon reviewing his application for support, the Foundation provided him with a bursary to help cover the financial costs of pursuing further education and connected him to a CA mentor – a relationship that continues to this day.
“I was put in touch with a lovely guy called Iain Wright CA, my mentor through university. I could bounce ideas off him,” explains Scurr. “It didn’t have to be about my degree or finance – it could be about the wider world. He was always happy to listen. It wasn’t just a quick five-minute chat – ‘How’s university going?’ – we might spend hours discussing different ideas or things that had come up in my modules. Sometimes, he would ask me about projects he was working on. We kept in touch after I graduated.”
Becoming an entrepreneur
Once settled into university life, with the ICAS Foundation’s support, Scurr began pursuing his business ambitions. During his second year, he started shifts in the campus-favourite food van Bonnie Burrito. The part-time job with its founder Nick Forrest would prove surprisingly life-changing.
“Bonnie Burrito won a bit of a cult following while I was at university – it grew rapidly,” Scurr recalls. “At one point, I turned to Nick and suggested we open a shop. He recognised my enthusiasm and the value I could add from studying business at university, so it made sense for us to team up.”
The store was a similar hit, enough so that Scurr and Forrest opened a second location, and their fanatical customers would soon give them the confidence to start a spin-off business. In 2017, just months after Scurr graduated from the University of Edinburgh, the pair launched the Bonnie Sauce Company. Customers had begun asking if they could purchase its sauces separately; one even asked for their autographs.
Whether you’re exploring accountancy or fully committed, the ICAS Foundation gives you the flexibility and freedom to pursue opportunity. I saw an opportunity with Bonnie Burrito, so I took it.”
With such a fanbase, it’s no surprise that the company was another runaway success. The business counts Sainsbury’s among its many stockists, as well as wholesale giants such as Greencity Wholefoods.
Scurr has continued his entrepreneurial streak with a new solo venture, Orders Made Simple. The stock-ordering app is a natural evolution of his partnerships with Forrest. The headache of juggling Bonnie Burrito’s suppliers, either over the phone or using desktop-based platforms, led to Scurr’s decision to create new technology from the ground up.
“We had about nine or ten suppliers that we were ordering from at any one point. Managers were taking 30 to 45 minutes each day to place orders. Sometimes, orders would be incorrect, or things would be missed, or prices would be wrong,” explains Scurr. “We wanted something where a chef could take out their phone and just press a couple of buttons. Hopefully, Orders Made Simple helps lots of other businesses. We should be able to save them lots of time and lots of money.”
Looking back at the young student deliberating over university in 2013, Scurr credits his educational and professional success to the work of the ICAS Foundation: “I am really grateful and thankful for the support that I received. I probably wouldn’t be where I am without the opportunity afforded to me by the ICAS Foundation. Anyone looking to study accountancy should really consider getting in touch because they really do help make things possible that had seemed impossible.”
Scurr is also keen to stress the flexibility of the support it provided during his university years. He says it remained supportive when his studies began to transition away from accountancy and towards business, and when he decided to become a partner in Bonnie Burrito while still completing his degree.
“Whether you’re just exploring accountancy or fully committed to it, the ICAS Foundation gives you the flexibility and freedom to pursue opportunity. I saw an opportunity with Bonnie Burrito, so I took it,” notes Scurr.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do so if I hadn’t had the ICAS Foundation behind me. It’s pretty daunting to start up a store and become a business partner as a student, and it’s always good to be able to turn to other people when things get tough. I had my parents, but I also had the support of Iain and the ICAS Foundation.”
The ICAS Foundation is a registered Scottish charity No SC034836.
You can support the work of the ICAS Foundation by donating, volunteering to mentor a student or providing an internship or work placement. You can also contact us to discuss a specific area where you would like to help.
This article was originally published in the ICAS CA Magazine, September 2020.