Talk - Founders4Schools - Top Tips for Starting Your Own Business

I got invited to speak at a local school, Parklands High School in Chorley, as part of Founders4Schools - They regularly get founders of businesses to talk to students about their entrepreneurial journey, across the UK.
Here's my top tips for the young people...

1 - Keep at it, even if you're not academic - I wasn't very academic at school, I shone when I started working at a media centre when I was 16. I didn't goto college, because I knew that wasn't the right path for me. I then kept getting told I needed a degree, so I went a got a Bachelor of Science in Media Production and Technology at UCLAN. I then freelanced for a few years working for companies like BBC and ITV, before I became an employee working on a two year project setting up and running a community radio station. The project kept getting continuation funding because of the good work we were doing, and I worked there for another 5 years.
All these jobs were hands on, but they were still looking for GCSEs and other qualifications, so keep at it and get as good grades as you can, your future self will thank you!

2 - Learn as much as you can - What you learn now at school will give you a grounding for the real world. You will be continuously learning throughout your life, and it's good to learn how to learn now, while you have the time. I have colleagues who went back to retake their GCSEs for career progression, and it was a struggle to fit everything it. It also costs you later on in life.
If you start up your own business, you'll probably not only be doing the thing you want to get paid for, but also your own admin, accounts and finances, promotion and online comms, so it's good to do the relevant GCSEs.
I wished I'd paid more attention in Maths, I could never see how that would be of use to me, until I did my first tax return!
Also, not all the topics you learn at GCES are about the actual subject. For example I did GCSE Drama and that turned a shy and quiet young person, into someone who daily stands up in front of people running training sessions and talking at conferences across the globe. Drama doesn't just teach you Shakespeare, it gives you confidence, speaking and listening skills and many other "soft skills" you'll use later down the line.

3 - Don't dismiss the mundane - I've worked in off licenses, supermarkets, and call centres, and I've had some of the worst and best people to work for. What this does is make you stronger, and more confident about what you *do* want to do. I'm proud of having come from a regular working-class family, worked hard all my life, and built my business up from nothing. All that is life skills and learning, you'll need that if you want to be a founder.
Dealing with an awkward client situation, uses similar soft skills as dealing with a drunk trying to leave a shop without paying!

4 - Don't be scared to ask for help - While you're still at school, learn how to ask for help. The business world is tough, and even tougher if you try and go it alone. There are lots people out there that want to support you and make sure your business is the best it can be. We have gained valuable learning about business through a variety of mentors, that have helped us understand the business world, selling, productivity, promotions, lots of stuff that's not what you get into business to do.
I'm also really passionate about continued professional development. I think it's really important to make sure your work/life balance is good too, and development as an individual is key to a healthy business too!

5 - Be creative, find your passion - I started my own business, after I got made instantly redundant from a charity that closed down. I saw this as a fabulous opportunity to do what I really wanted to do. I wanted to help people understand the digital world in an engaging and supportive way. Me and my business partner saw a gap in the market for good quality digital training, and we now deliver to charities, businesses and councils across the UK. DigiEnable has been running just short of 3 years now and already been listed 29th in the Top Digital Leaders 100. We are building, learning and growing everyday.
I love going to work, running workshops, networking with other people, and building a brighter future for our business and clients.
You can't really call it work, if you love what you do.

*The photo is from a fab blogpost which raises some great questions as to how to decide what you want to do for a 'job.'
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