The Leicester office of business and financial advisers Grant Thornton UK LLP is the first regional location outside of London, to run a ground-breaking initiative that supports and realises entrepreneurial spirit in children.
Designed to encourage school pupils to develop business skills, the firm’s pioneering School Enterprise Programme (SEP) also generates cash that is used to enable small business owners in developing countries to access microfinance and use it to establish and grow local businesses.
Leading the programme in Leicester is Matt Crawshaw, Associate Director in Grant Thornton’s Midlands wealth advisory team and a specialist in providing wealth advice to individuals, trusts and corporates.
Matt explains Leicester’s Judgemeadow Community College was selected for the pilot scheme in the region: “We met with staff at Judgemeadow to explain how Grant Thornton’s School Enterprise Programme helps 11 and 12-year-old pupils in Year Seven at school, by developing their financial, entrepreneurial, leadership and communication skills.
“By giving their pupils the opportunity to set-up and run their own microbusinesses in ‘real life’, and through games and exercises, the Programme means they can learn about what an entrepreneur is and how running a business affects the communities and the world around them.”
The Judgemeadow SEP began with a series of classroom lessons, followed by ‘I’m an Entrepreneur’ workshops run by representatives from Grant Thornton’s Leicester office, who then also mentored the ten teams of Year Seven students selected to take forward their microbusiness ideas.
The school provided each team with £30 of start-up capital for their business. Each team then took part in five head to head trading sessions in school over a 12-week period.
“The goal for each team was to make as much profit as possible, by trading during the school morning break, one week at a time,” explains Matt. “Many of the teams decided to sell food items, and one team gambled on making and selling pots of slime manufactured in the school science lab.
“The Programme’s format means the children must practically apply their knowledge, create their own microbusiness concepts, and then operate them,” he adds. “This teaches them about investing money, with the SEP investing the money they raise through microfinance into an entrepreneur in the developing world.”
At the end of the trading sessions, the combined profit made by the teams was calculated: “This was a staggering £712.50,” says Matt. “The total was invested with microbusinesses in countries selected by Judgemeadow - Ecuador, Malawi and Zimbabwe - via Grant Thornton’s charity partner, Lend with Care.”
Grant Thornton hosted a Winners Day at the Leicester office for the top teams and Judgemeadow staff.
The ‘Golden Heroes’ team won the Most Profit Award, and ‘Activators’ the most creative award for their slime pots. The children were given a tour of Grant Thornton’s Regent House office and attended a ‘Recognition and Prize Giving’ event.
Anne Sawford, Head of Careers at Judgemeadow College, oversaw the implementation of the SEP at the school, and says: “The Programme has helped our youngest students to discover things about the world outside of school, they have taken their first steps towards gaining important employability skills, and are well equipped as they move forward to consider their GCSE options. The whole school has benefitted from seeing and supporting this project which has raised awareness of the importance of those of us who are fortunate, doing what we can to help entrepreneurs in poorer parts of the world to gain their independence and financial stability.”
She adds: “The information and resources provided by Grant Thornton were relevant and current, and students quickly engaged in the Programme. They really enjoyed the diversity of the lessons, which helped them to understand more about entrepreneurs, business finance and gave them some knowledge of the differences in countries regarding poverty, education, population.
“The opportunity for the students to run their own business showed we have some real business brains with an edge in knowing how to create a profit.”
Speaking about the programme, one pupil said: “I enjoyed the experience of organising a business idea and finding out what it takes to be an entrepreneur. It was good that I could lead my own group when they sometimes went off task, and the Programme was fun, enjoyable and gave me lots of confidence.”