It was a real honour to return to Greenhead College this week.
The nosey part of me loved the opportunity to see how much things have changed since I studied there a ‘few’ years ago. And I wasn’t disappointed. There was the same grand entrance which still gives way to the stately double-winged staircase, some familiar faces among the teaching staff, and even the smell brought back memories! It’s funny what you remember.
However there were lots of transformations too. The campus has expanded, with new buildings, new facilities and new staff. And this time I was allowed to use the car park!
But all jokes aside, why was I there?
A few weeks ago, business tutor Andrew Coles invited me to attend the College’s ‘What’s Ahead Conference’, an event designed to get first year students thinking about the options in store for them post A-levels. With an already varied programme of presentations, the conference was missing one particular session – how to set up your own business. Here’s where Andrew needed my help.
So, rather than spending my morning telling someone else’s story, I delved into my own. We looked at the career path I took after graduating from University, the skills that came with full time employment and the steps I took to spot a gap in the market. Then we discussed practical topics such as securing finance, overcoming challenges and managing risks.
There was a lot for the groups to take in – especially given it was a Monday morning! But I wanted the sessions to be interactive, so that the students could think about whether they could set up their own business too.
We therefore explored the attributes that define an entrepreneur, before sharing our 90 second sketches of what a ‘typical’ entrepreneur looks like. With the help of a few friends of Scriba, who kindly sent us their own entrepreneurial videos, we also looked at other people’s stories, which reinforced my point that an entrepreneur is not defined by age, gender, ethnicity, educational background or industry.
We heard from Oliver Shaw, CEO of tech business Cascade HR for instance, as well as Shannon Martin, founder of the boutique store Evelyn Taylor Bridal – the list of helpful contributors goes on and on. We also learned more about Ryan Fraser of Fraser Projects, Jacob Hill of Offploy, Louise Hunter of Rubies Hairdressing, Ryan Clifford of Peel One, Adam Oldfield of Force24, Victoria Joy Walker of VJW Holistic Therapies, and Nic Flatt/Stacey Powers from Fifth Planet. A special thank you therefore goes to everyone who helped bring the workshops to life.
The two 40-strong sessions closed with the opportunity for students to ask their own questions. The topics were varied – one minute I was asked about the right time to take on staff, the next I was giving my opinion on niche vs mainstream products and services. We even talked about the impact of Brexit on business – although perhaps this was no surprise!
The hours flew, largely because of the enthusiasm, energy and concentration shown by the participating students. Despite being only 17 years old, the students demonstrated such creativity and spirit, that I’m sure the future will hold big things for them all. I returned to the office with an added spring in my step too, humbled to have met so many young people who really do mean business!
Good luck to them all – I’ll be heading back in Autumn to see how they’re getting on.