Business owner Mica always felt held back by her lack of qualifications. Now part-way through a Design & Innovation degree with The Open University, Mica says her confidence has sky-rocketed and she’s closer to achieving her dream of becoming a product designer.
“Not having a degree was always in the back of my mind,” says Mica, 37, who moved from Austria to the UK to pursue a career in fashion design.
“All my peers come from university and have their degrees. It was always something I wanted to do.”
After becoming pregnant, Mica and her partner set up a family business to combine their skills. They now run furniture company Riz & Mica Make from their East London workshop, focusing on giving reclaimed materials a new lease of life.
“I had worked hard to become a CEO and was proud of my achievements, but I still didn’t have a degree,” she explains.
I thought that I couldn’t afford university and didn’t have the right qualifications. Then a few years ago one of our employees told me he was studying with the OU and loved it. He said it’s great because you can work and study at the same time.
Within a week, Mica had discovered her perfect course and applied to start her degree.
Mica says it was important to find a degree course that allowed her to progress her business, while also exploring her creative side. A Design & Innovation degree was the perfect mix.
“I was looking to study something which obviously benefits my company and something I can apply to my business at the same time. We make furniture and also develop and innovate simple minimalistic products.
“Sustainability is really important,” she adds. “We are fully committed to producing only sustainable and environmentally friendly furniture. We have a strong passion for doing all we can to help the planet. We focus on making products that have a long life and reusing materials that help lessen our environmental impact, using reclaimed materials that would otherwise be burnt or sent to landfill. And lastly, we sell the waste products from our manufacturing process such as offcuts, and plant trees for each item ordered.”
The big dream is to become a product designer. I’m incredibly confident that the OU will help me to achieve my dream. I cannot wait.
By combining work and study, Mica says she can apply the skills she’s learning directly to her business, which has been invaluable.
“I would recommend the OU to anyone, especially the Business modules. If you run a business, then study Business and Management! It’s so good. Every company works differently but you gain knowledge that you can then apply in practice. It’s really wonderful.”
Mica now balances her business with family and student life, carving out time each weekend to focus on her assignments.
Her advice to other students also juggling a full plate is to get planning:
“I have a very good tight schedule. We have a planner at home with ‘Mommy Day’ and ‘Daddy Day’, along with ‘Mommy’s study day’. We try and juggle everything and it is hard sometimes, but you have to be strict.
“You also have to find out what kind of study type you are. I thought I could study in the morning, get up at 5am, and study for two hours. That didn’t work at all. Now I know that I have to study on the weekend and how many hours I have to study to pass my assignments. It takes time to figure out what works for you.”
Now two years into her qualification, Mica says being an OU student has boosted her confidence and will give her more security for the future.
“Studying with the OU feels like an open chapter. It gives you a lot of confidence and improves your self-esteem so much. I think it’s very important for everyone to go to university, it doesn’t matter how old you are,” she says.
I would absolutely recommend the OU. It’s so much fun and so well structured. To current or future students, I’d say have the courage to give it a go. You can do it.
"In fact, I have already recommended The Open University to many people because it is accessible to everyone, a quality I highly value, and provides an excellent education standard.
“I always thought, ‘I can’t do it’. And then it turned out that I can, which is so empowering.”