Entrepreneurs rarely access the full opportunities available in the education sector. Our business, 2JEvents, developed from the view that schools need business to thrive, but we’ve learnt that business can equally benefit from education.
We raise schools’ income by letting out their facilities. It sounds like a simple exchange of use of facilities for money, but both our company and the schools gain much more than this. It’s an exchange. We offer much to schools: access to the local community and the commercial ability to generate income, as well as our personal initiative to offer talks for students and take them on for work experience. What we gain as a business is just as varied, and herein are lessons for any entrepreneur. I’ve outlined just two below.
First, and perhaps most self-interested, is the fact that the education sector is immensely profitable. Schools are often sprawling, bureaucratic masses, run by (immensely well-intentioned) teachers who have never fully accessed or understood the corporate world. Many lose a great deal of money due to a single-minded drive to achieve results and please Ofsted (the government watch-dog for schools).
An entrepreneurial headteacher is not a rare thing, but an entrepreneurial headteacher with time on their hands to explore opportunities to save money is. Consequently, businesses that can supply a service allowing schools to outsource that gives them room within tight budgets are on to a winner. Companies that offer packages for employees such as teambuilding or public speaking workshops are looking to sixth formers. Insurance companies look to schools rather than big businesses. Energy saving initiatives recognise schools are just as likely to need their services as businesses. If you can gain access to a head-teacher (and believe me, this is often the hardest task you’ll experience in business) and your business model is sound enough to save money with little time commitment from staff, then the opportunities to work within the education sector are vast. It also has the added benefit of the knowledge that you are helping them to invest in their students.
Secondly, young people themselves are a resource under-used by entrepreneurs. Why trust a sixth-former’s opinion when you can have the advice of a professional with 40 years business experience? Why approach a problem by putting it to some 13 year olds when you can pay for some mentoring? Why take on a work-experience candidate when you can head-hunt someone with proven skills? Well, cost for one thing. An apprentice or work experience student can cost you almost nothing. Mentoring and salaries can be expensive. But beyond this, I’m yet to find a ‘young person’ that approaches a problem in a less profitable fashion than a business ‘professional’. They have less experience, but just as much to offer.
If you’re under 18 you often ask ‘why’ more, and usually the younger you are the blunter you are. There’s little fear to ask things, and little need to ‘unlearn’ previous experience. Go and pitch your business through the medium of taking an assembly or ‘teaching’ some students. Take on a work experience candidate to develop your idea for a week. Chances are you’ll completely agree with the cliché that you learn more about yourself through teaching others.
The gap between education and business is large, but when it is bridged, much can be achieved. Never underestimate what you can achieve from the education sector, or what you can do for it.
Written by Jemma Phibbs