Business Eye January February 2021

Page 64

Eye on Young Enterprise

(NEARLY) BUSINESS AS USUAL… How to run a business when you can’t trade face to face? It’s a challenge many have faced this year as they pivot online.


or the student companies in Young Enterprise this year, they have started their business journey with this pivot, constantly learning how to build resilience and scenario plan for a range of situations. Each year hundreds of students from across NI set up in business with Young Enterprise, developing their enterprise skills and gaining an insight into what it’s like to run a business. Come Christmas, they pack out St George’s Market in the Big Market product launch event. That was not an option this year, so the charity worked with its corporate patrons to ensure the students don’t miss out on this vital sales experience. The charity has launched the bespoke online trading platform, YE Trading Station, to allow the students to trade online this year. Schools from across N Ireland have got involved including St Patrick’s College, Dungannon with their diversity campaign ‘POC’, Lurgan College with a range of ‘Inspire Natural’ handmade soap products, and ‘Monkey Business’ from Banbridge Academy with a fun American sweet shop. CEO of Young Enterprise Northern Ireland, Carol Fitzsimons MBE, said, “we

L-R: Carol Fitzsimons, MBE, CEO, Young Enterprise NI; Jacob Patterson, MD of Offshore, Belfast High School, Young Enterprise Company of the Year Winners 2020; John Healy, Vice President & Managing Director, Allstate Northern Ireland (Company Programme Patron) and Professor Gillian Armstrong, Director of Business Engagement, Ulster University Business School (Company Programme Patron)

wanted to ensure that this year was no different for the students that we work with. Given the disruption to their schooling and concerns about future youth employment prospects, the charity wanted to make sure that they still got the opportunity to develop an enterprising mindset and build their business.” This has extended to all aspects of the student experience. The students have been supported through online webinars as they move through the different stages of idea development, marketing, and selling. The Patrons for the Company programme, Allstate, Ulster University Business School and PWC have all got involved with volunteers passing

on their knowledge to the students in the webinars, and they even got the chance to gain sales skills advice from a special event led by David Meade. Carol continues, “It’s a real representation of how business works at the minute – students have online calls with their mentors to get guidance on how they develop their business, and are learning how to make use of social media to get their message out there”. Whilst it has been a huge shift for many established businesses, learning how to be agile and responsive to a changing external environment has been business as usual for these young entrepreneurs. Through the ‘Big Market’ judging stage,

Kevin MacAllister, Northern Ireland Regional Market Leader, PwC (Company Programme Patron)and Carol Fitzsimons, MBE, CEO, Young Enterprise NI with Company Programme 2020-21 participants from Fort Hill Integrated College, Lisburn and St Malachy’s College, Belfast.

students got feedback from business volunteers, including YE Board Member Nick Whelan of Dale Farm who said, “It was nothing short of brilliant to see the creativity and thought that went into the submissions especially in the context of the pandemic. The future of NI business is in good hands” The Company Programme Patrons were committed to ensuring that students had the opportunity to get involved in developing their enterprise skills, regardless of the challenges this year. John Healy, Managing Director for Allstate Northern Ireland, said, “This is a fantastic opportunity for young people to get an insight into the world of work and to help them develop the vital skills that employers look for such as communication, creativity and resilience. To us, these skills are key to anyone wanting to have a successful career here at Allstate. We’re proud as a company to be able to collaborate with Young Enterprise, especially this year to ensure the young people involved don’t miss out on the opportunity to gain these all important employment skills. I’d encourage other companies to get involved in this fantastic programme and help shape the future workforce here in Northern Ireland.”

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