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Mentoring young people – A small business owner’s experience

David Hodgson, Managing Director of Automotive Electrical Ltd, gives his account of mentoring secondary school pupils through the Young Enterprise Company Programme:

My first experience of Young Enterprise was with Shelley College last year.  I was introduced to the group of students I would be working with and decided to meet them weekly for about an hour.  Their product was t-shirts with designs based on a Yorkshire theme.  

The students had already picked their officers, decided what to call the company and were in the process of opening a bank account.  My early thoughts were that the company ought to be called something else, and after a healthy discussion, they agreed on the name of ‘Mardy Clothing’.  

Initially there were 12 students in the group, but this was scaled down to 7.  The more I visited the students, and became involved in the product, the more I saw their individual characters and how their skills were developing.  I also saw how the group worked together.  

They formed a team bond which was seen throughout meetings and the Trade fairs.  

They pushed one another and helped each other in any way possible.  This trust within the team increased the confidence of the individuals and helped them achieve things they never thought possible before Young Enterprise.  

They didn’t always get their priorities right, but this didn’t interfere with the actual progress of the company.  Sometimes the discussions about the design of the t-shirt took over but I persuaded them to use the financial package outlined in the Young Enterprise programme, and encouraged them to develop a mission statement as soon as possible. 

The members of ‘Mardy Clothing’ gained a vast knowledge of business.  They researched their roles and responsibilities and used them in a real-life company.  The regular scheduled meetings helped them become more organised and identify issues and risks more quickly.  They dealt with problems which occur in a normal business and used innovation and resilience to overcome the problems.  

Unfortunately, when the time came to attend the local Young Enterprise Finals only one person from the team was willing to go.  He gave the presentation on his own but he won the best financials award!  I asked myself if I was disappointed in the rest of the team but I decided that I hadn’t wasted my time.  Those students had gained all that experience and knowledge that they could use after leaving school and in later life. 

This year I worked with a group of students from Colne Valley High School.  The Company was called Story Makers and the product was a pack of cards with graphics for pre-school and primary school children to make-up their own stories, and the product was popular.  They won the Best Innovation and Entrepreneurship award in the West Yorkshire County Finals.

All the teams that had qualified for the Finals delivered a presentation on their company and products to an audience of parents and judges.  This gave me the opportunity to compare first-hand the difference between the groups of students and the innovation and witness the shear inventiveness of what the students had come up with!

All in all, being a Business Adviser is time consuming and can be hard work, but the rewards are far greater.  I have enjoyed seeing the end product of all the student teams and their determination to succeed is outstanding.  

Having also got involved in mock examinations at Colne Valley High school, I’ve also seen another side of school that I hadn’t seen before.  Because of Young Enterprise, I have developed an urge to help mentor these young people as much as I can.