“As a business owner myself now, I vividly remember our brainstorming sessions and learning from the two local business advisers. That was my first exposure to the inner working of companies and our school’s successful enterprise was due in part to them sharing their skills with us.”
Tell us about yourself and how you got involved in Young Enterprise?
Wearing business dress and standing up in front of a room full of people to communicate a company’s strategy and vision has been a regular part of my career.
However, the first time I did it I was 17, and to say it was daunting is an understatement! I was Company Secretary of a Young Enterprise company back in 1997, and the experience helped me realise that this was a world I wanted to explore.
I now run my own business, as the Director of All Things IC (IC stands for internal communication). I help companies communicate internally through personalised consultancy and training, which is a privilege and something I thoroughly enjoy.
I started my career as a journalist less than two years after finishing Young Enterprise. I then moved into Corporate Communications, working for a decade in-house and in agencies for large organisations before creating my own consultancy in 2013.
Companies who have hired me include London Zoo, O2, The Guardian, London Ambulance Service, ARM, KP Snacks, Which?, Harrods and the Jamie Oliver Group. I’m also a prolific blogger, and have written 1100 articles over the past eight-and-a-half years to help professional communicators learn about PR, social media and internal communication.
What do you remember from your experience?
I was a pupil at St Edward’s Church of England school in Romford, Essex when I got involved with Young Enterprise. Alongside my peers we set up Konnect, a lunchtime sports-cafe for pupils.
We offered them the chance to play computer games or board games, to buy “tuck” and enjoy doing something other than simply wandering around the school grounds. We ploughed the money we made back into the activities, grew the business and made it more enticing. The queues outside proved that our strategy worked.
We put ourselves forward to compete against other schools in the area. I can distinctly recall how nervous we all were as we’d never had to pitch our wares against other pupils in our very own Dragons’ Den style competition (before that even existed!).
Although we believed in ourselves, convincing the judges was another matter. But our confidence shone through and we won the local competition and the Best Company Award in the London Borough of Havering Final.
The London East Regional Final swiftly followed. We travelled to the capital and I remember Gary Rhodes was the celebrity judge. We were up for Best Company, East London.
Unfortunately our winning streak ended, but we all walked away feeling like champions. We’d had a taster of the world of work and practical hands-on experience of what running a company felt like, and gained something extra to put on our CVs.
What did you learn through your Young Enterprise experience?
One thing I learned from Young Enterprise was that listening to what our pupil customers wanted and tailoring our messaging and strategy accordingly was key to business success.
You need to walk in your client’s shoes before you know your product or service is the right one for them. You need to constantly listen and make adjustments based on that market research.
It’s a lesson that rings true in my daily working life 20 years later and is something I now coach my clients in.
Did you develop any skills through Young Enterprise which has helped you throughout your career?
As a business owner myself now, I vividly remember our brainstorming sessions and learning from the two local business advisers. They were generous with their time and expertise and helped us with the logistics of selling shares in Konnect to pupils and ensuring we balanced the books. That was my first exposure to the inner working of companies and our school’s successful enterprise was due in part to them sharing their skills with us.
I’m a regular industry speaker, talking at conferences for PR and Communication practitioners to share my experience and help boost their skills and confidence. The first time I did that was 20 years ago through Young Enterprise when we had to present our company to the judges.
Any final thoughts?
I’m grateful for the chances I had to learn about the world of work while I was at school, it certainly gave me a taste for running my own business. As an entrepreneur now, I may not be selling tuck to pupils, but the success tastes just as sweet because I’m able to continually give back and ensure I’m listening to my clients and meeting their needs to help them succeed.
I’d definitely recommend Young Enterprise to today’s pupils and to companies looking to offer business advice.
Rachel Miller, Director, All Things IC.