Gareth Williams

After graduating in 2015, Gareth chose to stay in Manchester, where he now works as a Senior Policy Officer focusing on the nighttime economy of the city.

On my degree leading to my career

Gareth Williams

Before my degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do - there's no obvious connection between Geography and local government.

However, I’ve always been interested in politics and politically active, and when I broke down the skills I’d learnt at University and my interests, it was actually a much better fit than I initially realised.

As for the start-up, without Geography and James Evans’ sustainability field course, I would never have learned about urban agriculture.

What’s more, the transferrable skills I gained and the knowledge of cities, economics and sustainability are all things I need for both my jobs, and I’d like to think a passion and tenacity for a subject I care about.

It’s much easier to work hard and get out of bed in the morning if you’re passionate about what you do.

On my graduate scheme

After university, I applied for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA) graduate scheme and was the first-ever graduate they’d had.

I was on the graduate scheme for two years, although halfway through the organisation had a restructure.

Luckily for me, I ended up in the Strategy Team, which also worked as the Mayor’s Office, meaning I was working directly to and for Andy Burnham on policy development and strategy.

I’m now a Senior Policy Officer in the Business, Innovation and Enterprise Team at GMCA and I work on, amongst other things, digital policy, economic policy, the Local Industrial Strategy, and cultural policy.

I also lead on Night Time Economy Policy, working closely with Sacha Lord, Warehouse Project and Parklife Festival Co-Founder and Greater Manchester’s first-ever Night Time Economy Adviser.

On my start-up business

I founded a start-up business, Hive Urban Farms, with another Geography graduate.

Whilst at the University, I became really interested in cities and sustainability - this led to an interest in food and food production and, ultimately, I came across Urban Agriculture (and wrote my dissertation on the socio-economic benefits of urban agriculture in a post-industrial city).

We had an idea based on circular economic and feedback loops - basically recycling waste products - and so began experimenting in tupperwares in airing cupboards. We applied for the Manchester Entrepreneurs Society’s accelerator programme ‘Accelerate Me’ and became one of seven (out of 100) businesses to be accepted onto it.

No one in our families has any experience of running a business, so we literally turned up with an idea.

By the end of the course, we had a limited company, a fully developed brand, and went and spoke at the Global Food Innovation Summit ‘Seeds and Chips’ in Milan. Other speakers included Barack Obama and Dickson Despommier, very much the world leader on urban agriculture.