A look back on the year - Bridge 2 Business at Ayrshire College
As the end of the second semester draws to a close, I thought this would be an ideal time to reflect on the last eight months, since starting with Bridge 2 Business at Ayrshire College.
From innovative classroom workshops, A Nil by Mouth photography competition winner, on-going business projects with Supported Learning students, exclusive events, exciting new collaborations with local employers, to classroom visits from Local Heroes and support organisations it has been an inspiring and enterprising year, and it's not over yet!
An exclusive highlight was the launch of the Enterprising Students Grant, which is designed to offer Ayrshire College students a comprehensive mentoring support programme and the opportunity to apply for a grant of up to £5,000. A first for a UK College, which is non-restrictive to a student's age, level or course area.
Since September last year, I have been privileged to meet so many inspiring and talented students who are interested in developing their enterprise skills to start up their own business. Four such students were the first to be recently awarded the 5k grant submission deadline in March 2019. This was testament to their dedication to developing their practical skills and putting their ideas into practice, which is key to learning by doing. Each of the four students worked over 2-3 months to develop their business plan, which saw an idea progressing from a few thoughts jotted down to a completed business plan.
First up was HNC Art and Design student, Sandra Laurenson, 39, from Prestwick who impressed the judges with her creative skills, designing personalised free motion embroidery pictures for her business www.jollywellmade.com. Sandra said, "I am absolutely thrilled to receive this grant to buy a new sewing machine. This will open up opportunities for me to expand my product range, and production capacity of Jolly Well Made. It has given me so much confidence in myself, and I am very excited about the future as I just love what I do."
Enterprising HNC Business Management student, Aaron Gregory, 20, from Ayr has started a business, Pathogen Merchandising and Fulfilment, selling promotional merchandise for bands worldwide. Arron says, "The grant is amazing, and means that my business idea can now move from the planning stage, to becoming a reality. The opportunities I have been given by coming to college are fantastic, and I am fully embracing all of them. I am passionate about music, enjoy networking, and with the business skills I am learning, I am looking forward to a bright future doing what I love to do."
NC Sound Production student, Scott Haddow, 28, from Irvine has started a business Eleven:Eleven Events offering a range of entertainment to bars, clubs, hotels and hosting private events across Ayrshire and Glasgow. Entertainment ranges from Comedy Nights, Live Music Evenings to Magic Shows and a Variety Show. Scott says, "I am delighted to be awarded this grant, and knowing the judges believed in me has given me confidence. This experience has lifted my aspirations. If I had not come to college, I would not be doing this now. I used to be a fencer, but now I am doing what I want in life. I am hardworking and driven, but I don't see it as work, because I'm doing something I love."
The final student to be awarded the grant is Bryan Shaw, 25 from New Cumnock, who is studying HNC Photography. Bryan's business is called 1815 Media and is a photography and videography business. Bryan says, "I have turned a hobby into a career. My college lecturers have inspired me by pushing me further, and they have really developed my potential. I've had so much encouragement to create a business plan, and it's helped build up my confidence and believe in myself. The whole experience has prepared me for life after college, and raised my aspirations to go further and higher."
Although the idea of completing a business plan may sound daunting, if you are passionate about your business idea and believe in the heart of the business - then anything is possible. I saw each student learn new skills and gain knowledge when preparing their business plan. The more they talked about their ideas, their confidence grew as did the scale and potential of their idea. Not all their original plans stayed on track - which is why it is so important to put your ideas into practice to then learn from the experience and adapt.
When you have a business idea, the quicker you can start to put that idea into practice then the sooner you will learn and develop. Over the last six months, I have worked with students on developing their practical skills, by securing work experience opportunities and exhibition stands at trade events to "sell" their business ideas and products whilst getting feedback and gaining essential practical skills.
Networking is key for developing your business idea, as you never know what collaboration opportunities are around the corner. On that note, it was encouraging to see the initial round of applicants collaborate with each other. Bryan Shaw of18:15 Media created digital campaigns for Scott Haddow's 11:11 Events business, and Aaron Gregory of Artificial Pathogen created branded T-shirts - all in the name of collaboration and supporting similar start-up businesses.
The original four students who have been approved for the grant have all agreed to act as mentors at future Bridge 2 Business Workshops.
When you start to talk about your ideas, you will soon gain feedback and confidence in your ability. Self-believe is sometimes hard to achieve, but as you make progress and start to develop your skills then this adds confidence to your approach in achieving your goals.
The opportunities available now whilst studying at College are incredible. I would encourage every student to make the most of them all, and part of our job at Bridge 2 Business to direct you to the right opportunities for your career and business plans. If you are interested in developing business skills, you can request a Bridge 2 Business workshop for your class or as part of an event. Equally there are on-going Bridge 2 Business workshops available for students interested in developing their business knowledge and practical skills. To attend the workshops don't need have finalised plans, or to have prepared anything - just knowing what you enjoy and how you want to develop your skills is a great starting point.
At Bridge 2 Business we practice a "Learning by Doing" model, designed to get students essential practical skills to develop their business skills. Bridge 2 Business offers college students first hand opportunities to engage with appropriate entrepreneurial role models. Role models who are relevant to college students who have an interest in setting up their own business now or in the future or for those who are looking to take enterprise skills to their workplace.
Alongside the opportunity to meet and engage with role models the programme helps connect college students with the great networks that exist in Scotland to support our much-needed start-up businesses. Networking is key for developing your business idea, and here have been several Bridge 2 Business events at the college, which has seen college students in event roles, and presenting whilst developing their networking skills.
For more information on the Bridge2business programme available to Ayrshire college students please visit http://www1.ayrshire.ac.uk/enterprising-student/
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