In her second blog as WBC member of the month, Wendy Hallett discusses her experience of talking to year 10 and 6th form students during Enterprise Week.
On 20 November I visited Fortismere secondary school in Muswell Hill to talk about Enterprise Week. During the visit I met a mix of students studying economics, business studies and ICT from year 10-13 (aged 15-18). I chose this particular school as my daughter has just left its sixth form and my son is a pupil there, as are the children of several of my staff.
While at the school, I gave a talk about my business journey for Hallett Retail and provided tips on starting up your own business, followed by a Q&A session.
What I hadn’t realised was that some of these students had already set up their own businesses. Three boys have set up a gaming site, another student is actively sourcing clothing from China to sell in the UK and a 15 year old is putting together a cookery book of six recipes from successful popular restaurants in Muswell Hill and Crouch End to be sold in the local cafes and restaurants.
This discussion sparked lots of questions, from which are the best subjects to study for starting your own business, to what advice I would give along the Start Up journey:
• The most important aspect that a Start Up business requires, in my opinion, is how you think and how you apply yourself. You need to be passionate about what you do and this will shine through if you are knowledgeable about the market you are entering;
• I agreed that academic subjects are important, as are qualifications;
• Consider specific subjects that includes your business focus, especially as the business world becomes more and more globally competitive;
• Identify what you are good at and what are your opportunities by getting help with the areas you’re not skilled at, or employ someone that is;
• You need to be able to sell yourself and you need to always be prepared;
• Use networking opportunities – extracurricular activities like clubs and volunteering. When we review applicants with similar qualifications and work experience, we look at their personal statements;
• Age is not a barrier; you are never too young to start a business;
• And finally, remember that businesses that are started purely for financial gain rarely succeed.
I also provided the students with further information on where you can apply for start-up loans, mentoring and starting your own business:
• Business is Great
• Setting up
• Social Enterprise UK
The Value of Mentors
Mentors are really good to have, especially in a similar industry as they will provide the most useful advice. The site for Enterprise Mentoring is a great starting point to look for a mentor.
I mentioned the work of the Women’s Business Council in the context of National Enterprise Week (18-24 Nov) specifically how the WBC is helping to maximise women’s contribution to future economic growth. I received a very positive response, especially regarding the different life stages that the WBC covers and because I’m a working mother.
As an entrepreneur, I would urge all other business people to sign up to the Inspiring the Future Campaign or other similar programmes which enable speakers to go into schools and talk about setting up enterprises.
Additionally, the British Chamber of Commerce has a number of women’s business networks and does some excellent work with schools to raise girl’s awareness of enterprise as a career opportunity.
The best news about my visit? I have already been asked to go back and speak to a group of students involved with the Princes Trust to talk about group enterprise and to students that are studying vocational courses. I’m already looking forward to it!