The road less travelled

The GDST has launched a pilot Enterprise Scheme for Sixth Form students as an introduction to a career as an entrepreneur

When a student reaches the end of her sixth form career, it is often thought that she has two pathways to choose from: university or work.  In reality, many of our students choose gap years, volunteering or a mixture of work and study with higher level apprenticeships.

But a new pathway is emerging – entrepreneurship.  It may well be a road less travelled, but current students will be following in the footsteps of some brilliant GDST alumnae; pioneers who have shone a light on the exciting opportunities on offer.

GDST entrepreneur
Rebecca and Clare Hopkins, co-founders of Balance Me (natural skin care)
gdst alumna
Chloe Smith, co-founder of Bigmoose Coffee (charity and non-profit coffee shop)

This isn’t a path for everyone.  It takes a certain sort of person to thrive on the uncertainty of setting up a business.  Key skills include the ability to juggle lots of different projects – those working in start-ups often have to wear several different hats – so time management is important.  Resilience, however, is fundamental. Things will go wrong.  An entrepreneur has to be comfortable with the idea of failing fast and learning quickly.  Bouncebackability is key.

At the GDST we are giving students the chance to test themselves in this environment.  We have launched a pilot Enterprise programme for Sixth Form students in a number of schools.  Working in teams, students have been tasked with developing a business idea, considering their target market, working out finances and considering how best to promote their idea.  Along the way they garner expert advice from GDST alumnae mentors and receive regular training on key skills.

squrrel sisters
Gracie & Sophie Tyrrell- sisters and founders of Squirrel Sisters (award-winning snacking brand).

To make it even more of a challenge, we have asked groups to come up with ideas for a service, rather than a product.  This means that students can’t create a business based on a product cheaply imported, made from single-use plastic or similar materials.  This approach mirrors the real world where many of our most successful companies don’t have a product they can hold in their hand.

The inspiration for this came from the students.  A group from Sheffield Girls’ independently set up an online business to support overseas students coming to study in the city.  They sold consultations and support materials, without ever printing out a single page.

Even if students don’t decide to launch their own businesses after the programme, they will have learnt some useful workplace skills along the way; how to pitch an idea, how to respond to feedback, how to work in a team.  All useful skills regardless of whether they are the next Martha Lane Fox or decide to follow a more traditional path.

One thing is certain, the GDST means business.