Founder Spotlight: Meet Andrine!
Andrine Allen is an accomplished, fully qualified teacher, intervention specialist, private tutor, Shine ambassador, member of the PWC social entrepreneurs club, motivational speaker and AA Educates programme director and founder. Andrine, was recently named one of the top 100 women by NatWest WISE100; who recognised her as one of the most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise, impact investment and mission-driven business.
We recently spoke with Andrine about her journey setting up AA Educates, the importance of networks for first-time entrepreneurs, and why she has joined the #FVImmerse programme!
Can you introduce AA Educates?
AA Educates practically responds to the setbacks of Covid-19 and previous deprivation by providing 100% subsidised quality tuition, educational programmes and mentorship for underserved students.
Pre Covid-19, underserved students were starting school academically, three months behind their peers. By the time they left secondary school, this attainment gap increased by 21 months on average.
Post Covid-19, this attainment gap has significantly widened by 46%.
AA Educates works by bridging attainment gaps between state and private education, through innovative educational programmes, such as the private/state school partnership programme. This programme sees our more able state school students access private education and the experiences that come with it, which would have once felt unattainable to them.
What motivated you to start AA Educates?
At the age of sixteen, a small group of friends and I went to collect our GCSE results. One friend, in particular, was noticeably distraught after receiving his grades. Being the closest to him, I briefly consoled him and thought nothing more of it. Two days later, he had taken his own life.
For months, I questioned what I could have done? I asked the teachers, his mother and other adults around him. Why was he not protected? What could have made a difference to him achieving the results he had so desperately desired? The biggest question I had was for the education system. This trauma sparked a life-long passion, compelling me to become a qualified teacher in 2013, with one goal in mind “TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!”
After teaching and tutoring for the past ten years, I have first-hand insight into the educational divides that so comfortably sit within our society. Fast forward to 2020 and the arrival of Covid 19 and school closures. Education was transferred online, causing huge disruption to students from disadvantaged communities. Many of my students did not have the opportunity to carry out uninterrupted learning for various financial reasons.
A whole new set of issues came to the forefront and shed light on education poverty. This brought back many memories of Frank; once again, I felt compelled to act!
What’s been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your social entrepreneurial journey?
One of the issues we face; as with many social enterprises, is we do not sell a product or a service. Therefore, the belief, support and generosity of others plays a vital role in our success and impact. It has been a task getting our voice heard through the crowd, even though what we do is very necessary, unique and important; especially in our current climate. The biggest challenge, however, has been creating a trusted brand with little to no budget.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting up?
Yes, absolutely! I assumed that all the skills that I had built up as a teacher would seamlessly transfer into the business world and would be enough to start a successful social enterprise. In the beginning, I was doing absolutely everything on my own and almost burnt out. I quickly realised that building a specialist core team is essential.
Any top tips for entrepreneurs struggling with structure?
Tip Number I
Do not try to do everything on your own — build a core team, which compliments each other’s strengths and areas of development. Ask for help, start with friends and family. Additionally, there are many companies that can match you with volunteers to plug any specialist skill gaps that your team may have.
Tip Number 2
Plan, plan, plan…think out loud, write on paper as much as you can. Start with your end goal and plan backwards — break down your goals into small achievable milestones.
Tip Number 3
Try to see everything as an opportunity and stay positive. Even when you think something has not gone the way you had hoped, learn from it, take away the positives and don’t take it personally.
Entrepreneurial communities can be such powerful support networks — do you have any asks or gives to the vine community?
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey, having a support network and people to share the ups and downs with is priceless. AA Educates current focus is on building key partnerships with corporate companies and foundations that have a social responsibility, ones that will fully support us in scaling and becoming an impactful social enterprise.
I am a giver and an educator by nature; therefore, I am more than happy to support the vine community using my skills to add value where I can. Since becoming an entrepreneur I have learnt so much about personal development and understanding what it takes to fulfil a dream. As a teacher, I obviously enjoy imparting knowledge and scaffolding the growth of others. As the CEO of AA Educates, I have had the privilege to guest speak, delivering motivational talks to students and young women. Motivation and growth is something that I am also extremely passionate about and would love to do more talks on. I would be honoured to support the vine community in this capacity.
What are some of the marquee goals in your journey ahead?
AA Educates aims to be the trusted voice of education, impacting and serving our target audience. We are looking to become an internal intervention system, embedding our programmes into as many schools and communities as possible.
We intend to create a recognised entrepreneurship building programme, that will ultimately become part of the National Curriculum, AA Educates will also be the awarding body for it.
Our ultimate goal is to open a federation of academies, delivering entrepreneurship and financial literacy as the foundations of our curriculum.
How is the Foundervine Immerse programme supporting you on your journey?
I am sure I speak for many when I say that the Foundervine Immerse programme in partnership with Lloyds Bank is hugely important for someone like me, who would have described themselves as ‘underserved’. The Immerse programme has provided me with a host of opportunities to connect and build my network. More importantly; it has provided me with opportunities to grow, not only my enterprise but also as an individual.
Becoming part of the Immerse programme has allowed me to upskill myself, offering me the chance to gain knowledge and understanding in key areas of business, such as marketing and sales. I recently received my first masterclass on the Immerse Marketing and Sales Accelerator. I have since been able to build and refine my business marketing strategy, using the information that I gathered.
Any final words of wisdom for our Vine Community?
I would say, believe in yourself, dream big and find your passion. No one will back you without you backing yourself first.