It was a long bus journey. But worth it!
Last week I joined the Start- Up Britain tour bus when it came to eastern England on Tuesday 23rd October. Every day the bus parked at one or two colleges in order to provide advice, guidance and information to students who were thinking about starting their own business. On board were entrepreneurs, business advisors and staff from the Start-Up Britain Company.
The bus, inside and outside, is very smart and it is equipped with an electronically controlled canopy which creates a shop-front at each stop. Inside there were several computers where visitors could, among other things, take part in a survey, obtain a free domain name and look at the offers and help that are available to the young entrepreneur. Upstairs there was a very smart lounge area where business ideas were discussed and informal conversations could take place. Every visitor was provided with a ‘goody bag’ which contained more information on the offers and The Start-Up Loan Kit book, which I would recommend to all ages; as it says on the cover, it provides ‘everything you need to start a small business’.
My role was to provide details on the 18-24 Start-Up Loans scheme. Foundation East are the delivery partner in this region and it is important to inform as many as possible that this money, together with free business mentoring, is available now.
There was quite a variety in which this free, attractive and worthwhile opportunity was utilised at each venue. Below is a brief diary.
Tuesday 23rd October – morning
Venue: Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.
Lecturers were on hand and joined the welcoming committee. Despite the rain, from start to finish I was talking to someone regarding our 18-24 Start-Up Loans or our other business loans. All morning visitors came on board and it was heartening to hear the variety of the business ideas which were being developed. The enthusiasm was evident.
Tuesday 23rd October – afternoon
Venue: North Hertfordshire College, Stevenage
The majority of our student visitors at this college were younger than 18 so there were not that many immediate potential loan applicants. However, the bus was not short of activity for the first two hours. Students were brought out from their classes by their tutors, at timed intervals, to visit and have a look at what was on offer.
Unfortunately the lectures for the older students were not scheduled to start before the bus left. However, following some very useful introductions, I have been asked to return early in the New Year to speak to those classes.
Wednesday 24th October - morning
Venue: Barking & Dagenham College
No rain today. The students were encouraged to visit the bus with their lecturers between classes and one of the Start-Up crew gave a short presentation in the main college foyer. I made some very useful contacts with the local Enterprise Agencies and I would like to thank Nigel Stewardson from BIS for his time and interest in Foundation East.
At 11.00 am I was contacted by BBC Radio Essex and provided a live interview which was followed by a second live report from one of our successful clients, Chordal Green who are based in Harlow.
Thursday 25th October – morning
Venue: City College, Norwich
The lecturers were on hand, encouraging their students to visit. There were the very smart attendees from The Peter Jones Academy and a very colourful (pink predominantly) young lady, Ellie, who needed less than £500 to launch her business. A constant flow of enquiring visitors allowed the morning to pass quickly.
I thought that Norwich was going to provide a busy day so Marketing Assistant Chris accompanied me for the day. Although it was freezing and Chris had not brought a coat he was evidently warmed by the young ladies who sought his advice and the pub lunch.
Thursday 25th October – afternoon
Venue: University of East Anglia, Norwich
Our host had a number counter and the final figure was 136 students who boarded the bus. The entrepreneurs, advisors and Start-Up Britain team were fully occupied for the afternoon and there were some inspiring visitors. One student was more than covering her fees by advising on environmentally friendly energy, which also significantly reduced overheads. Her business will grow and be very successful.
Friday 26th October – 10.00am – 15.30pm
Venue: University Campus, Ipswich
On the waterfront and the coldest day of the week. When the bus and the advisors arrived there was initial uncertainty where the bus was going to park. After a photographic moment at the far end of the Marina the bus moved to the ‘Question Mark’. A number of seminars had been planned for the day but there was no mustering of the students, no encouragement by the lecturers and consequently very little bus action and interest. I would estimate less than 50 visitors.
The seminars were worthwhile and yours truly had the opportunity to talk about Foundation East and our loan programmes during the first session after lunch, which has subsequently created enquiries. But the poor people on the bus! The advisors who had come along had nearly no-one to advise, the team froze and became increasingly disheartened as the day progressed. The bus left early and unfortunately Ipswich missed it.
This is a great idea and it is obvious that a large amount of money has been spent on equipping and staffing the Start-Up Britain Bus. There is a tremendous amount of useful free information and advice available in a number of formats. The vital factor at each college is the determination to take maximum advantage of this mobile facility and the enthusiasm and forward planning which co-ordinates whatever is going on in the college with the time allocated for the bus to be on site. I would like to thank all on board for their hospitality and hard work and the very best for the continued journey around the country.
Richard Glinn, Marketing and Membership Manager