Since September I have been acting as a Business Adviser to a team from Exeter College who are taking part in the Young Enterprise Companies Programme.

This is a voluntary role that takes me out of the office and into the classroom each week, to mentor a team of young entrepreneurs as they start their first business.

Young Enterprise is the UK’s leading Enterprise education charity with over 240,000 young people between the ages of 4 and 25 in 5,000 schools and colleges taking part each year.

Bishop Fleming has provided sponsorship to around 20 schools this year, and has business advisers in 8 schools. As in previous years, we will also be providing judges to local and regional finals, as well as Board members in the West of England, Devon, and Hereford and Worcester.  This is one of the ways in which the firm supports financial education and social engagement; our employees have great skills to offer these young entrepreneurs, and gain a great deal of satisfaction in playing their part.

The Company Programme is the flagship of Young Enterprise’s suite of programmes in which young people, usually in the Lower Sixth form, set up and run a company for the academic year. They design, make and sell their own products and learn all aspects of running a business –including the challenge of trying to get a group of individuals to form into an effective team and move in the same direction.

The Exeter College team are, with one exception, international students, so they started the year with the additional challenge of not knowing each other, and having to communicate, present, negotiate and sell in their second or even third language.

Watching the team grow and develop has been fascinating; along the way they have made friends, and developed the skills needed to understand deeply their cash flow, their business model, their target audience and their supply chain. As a non-accountant this has been great learning for me as well, as I was able to bring expertise and experience in a number of areas, but helping them with balancing their books wasn’t one of them!

The great thing about the programme from my point of view is that I am not just mentoring the group; I’m constantly learning too, about group dynamics, technology, manufacturing and production, and social media.

The team are preparing for the area final as we speak, which is being held at the Met Office. They will be presenting their pitch to an audience of local business people, which is a significant achievement in itself, and one that would strike fear into the hearts of many.

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