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College of Science & Engineering

College of Science & Engineering

News and stories from the College of Science & Engineering

Undergraduate entrepreneurship – a Hiccup!?

To explore the experiences of undergraduate students who are engaging in entrepreneurship alongside their studies, we spoke to two School of GeoSciences final year students who have been involved in the development of a sustainable business idea.

Can you tell us about yourselves?

Hello! Maria Montull and I (Heather Young) are two co-founders at Hiccup, a company that aims to reduce plastic waste by developing a reusable drinks cup for festivals and other large events. We are both in our last year at the University at Edinburgh, pursuing degrees in Ecological and Environmental Sciences with Management at the School of GeoSciences. I am originally from Aberdeen, whilst Maria comes from Barcelona. We met during our studies in second year and have been collaborating on Hiccup for a year now.

Portrait image of Heather Young

Heather Young

What is Hiccup and how did you get involved?

Hiccup is an Edinburgh-based company that aims to tackle the escalating issue of plastic pollution, particularly exacerbated by festivals and pop-up events such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The idea for Hiccup came about when co-founders witnessed the staggering amount of single-use plastic waste generated by these events – it served a catalyst for developing a sustainable solution. Maria and I enrolled in a course called Enterprise Consultancy, an elective we took in third year through the Business School. This course equipped us with valuable consultancy skills and the opportunity to work with the existing company, Hiccup, as part of a project. We connected with this particular project as we, as environmental scientists, wanted to improve plastic use in events that we loved and wanted to participate in without feeling guilt about the pollution we create. Impressed by our dedication and the potential of our ideas, Hester and Denny, the owners of Hiccup, offered us co-founding positions at the company. This allowed us to continue our research and development even after the course concluded. We have received crucial support from Hester and Denny, who believe in our ability to help take the business forward.

Portrait photo of Maria

Maria Montull Rodriguez

How did you then develop your skills in business?

We applied for the Start-up Summer Accelerator programme run by Edinburgh Innovations. The programme gives new entrepreneurs the chance to learn key business knowledge and practical skills to launch their business idea. The programme partners with Edinburgh Earth Initiative to make sure climate and sustainability is taught at all stages of the business process. The business ideas taught in the programme look to advance the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development goals. It taught both of us so much in a short period of time, equipping us with practical skills to continue progressing with Hiccup.

Through the Start-up Summer Accelerator Programme, we were put in contact with Zero Waste Scotland and Barclays Eagle Labs. Zero Waste Scotland has helped hundreds of businesses adopt circular economy practices, allowing business to connect with markets and refine their business ideas and position. Barclays Eagle Labs help to inspire and educate all levels of businesses. From funding to one-to-one coaching, to finding investors, they provide a range of options to help your business plan. Both these organisations have lots of free resources, we would recommend looking at their websites and seeing what could benefit your business idea.

Small reusable cup

The Hiccup

What are your future hopes for Hiccup and for yourselves when you finish your studies?

Looking ahead, our vision for Hiccup involves further collaborations with organisations such as Gilded Balloon, Assembly, and the University of Edinburgh Students’ Association to introduce our product to festival and student bars. We aim to establish partnerships with event management companies and bars to raise awareness and enhance the environmental impact of these businesses. Maria and I see a bright future for Hiccup. We believe in the product’s potential to make a positive difference, and our goal is to see it implemented in major festivals and events. After graduating this year, Maria will be working as a Graduate Project Manager in Renewables Energies with Wood while I will pursue mix of volunteering positions for conservation organisations and securing a graduate role within the ecology sector. We will both still work on the business and put the product out there!

What have you learned from the whole experience so far?

Through this journey, we have mainly learned how entrepreneurship and business development functions for a range of different people. We both come from a science background, but no matter what your background is, if you have an innovative idea, go for it! We learned there are always new ideas or concepts to learn about that could improve your personal and professional development, never stop learning! Being university students and co-founders, we’ve learned to be adaptable and to communicate effectively. These two skills allow us to accommodate all our responsibilities and hit the goals we want to during a set time. Our experiences have reinforced our belief in the positive impacts a sustainable business can have on the environment but more important is the positive impact people can have when they want to make a difference for the planet.

Hiccup logo

Any advice for other students interested in entrepreneurship?

For fellow students with innovative business ideas, we encourage you to embrace challenges and uncertainties. Seek mentorship and guidance from experienced professionals in your field. Look at online resources such as Zero Waste Scotland, Barclay’s Eagle Labs and the Edinburgh Innovations team. You can always go to the Innovation Hub; they have many mentors and are very welcoming. Even if you have an idea but aren’t sure how to start, they are there for that. Once you have a clear idea, remember that it’s crucial to conduct thorough market research to understand the potential challenges and if the idea is needed! Lastly, keep believing in yourself and stay passionate about your idea, and be open to learning from every experience.

Heather Young and Maria Montull, co-founders at Hiccup, and final year students in Ecological and Environmental Sciences with Management. If you are interested in contacting them about Hiccup please email or


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