I made my escape from the city three years ago, when I started a social enterprise called, appropriately, Enabling Enterprise. We work with teachers and businesses to make sure young people leave school with a better understanding of the world and a great skill set.
We're always looking for new businesses to get involved, so do get in touch and I can share my experience too!
Check out Tom's story of starting up his fantastic schools-based initiative which helps students through practical learning. Thanks for sharing your own learnings Tom.
I'm running a non-profit called Enabling Enterprise, which designs and delivers year-long courses for schools which focus on developing students' skills, engaging them through practical learning, and boosting their aspirations through visits to some great companies.
This consists of a little bit of everything - from running events with our students at our host businesses, to creating marketing materials and talking to new schools to get them involved, to maintaining our solvency.
I taught Business Studies as part of TeachFirst for a couple of years which was a brilliant experience and it was during this time that the ideas and approach for Enabling Enterprise started coming together.
Essentially, it grew from an increasingly desperate need to engage the students, and realising that getting them to actually do something - whether starting a small business, writing a yearbook or designing an experiment kit - was the best way to do it.
After Teach First, I worked for a management consultant for six months but kept running Enabling Enterprise on the side, which was pretty unsustainable...
When I was younger I really saw myself starting a business, but during university I convinced myself that was all too risky and not for me at all.
I started thinking about working on Enabling Enterprise full time about 18 months before the leap, when our first Impact Analysis came in, and I realised that the programme was having a real impact on the students involved, and maybe we were on to something.
The moment of truth was looking at my to-do list one morning, and realising that it had been consistently expanding for six months, and actually management consulting really wasn't going to be compatible with running a network of 20-odd programmes with 600 students in it. I had to leave consulting, or wind up Enabling Enterprise.
Very quickly - I decided I had enough savings to pay the rent for six months, and that if there was no prospect of raising more income by the end of that period, then I'd happily go back into teaching, and just treat those six months as a mini-gap year (although a pretty hard working one!).
It was really about trying to lower the risk, at least psychologically. In the end, I got really lucky - two weeks after leaving my job I won an award from the Young Foundation's Learning Launchpad which paid a small salary and a few other costs up to October. Ultimately, the model is that schools, businesses and other foundations will eventually pay a third of the costs each.
Toughest: The persistence required - the decision to leap was relatively easy but by that point I had already worked incredibly hard to build up a strong following amongst other secondary schools which meant that the concept was tried-and-tested and could make a convincing case to funders and for getting new schools involved.
Best: I love the feeling of creating something new, where your efforts are obvious, and ideas can be quickly realised. It is also a great feeling to wake up in the morning and know that the day is yours to do with as you see best.
There's something about just taking the first step, and then keeping to take small steps. I think it is great to have a big vision, and one day I would love to have Enabling Enterprise in every school, but lots of people who talk a lot about a big idea never get anywhere because they want everything to line up before they start.
I started with my own class, shared the resources with another school, and built up gradually from there. Just start it, no matter how the small the scale initially, and be prepared to learn.
Other people - I think if you're interested in people and ask them about what they're doing, and what their take is on your idea, that is incredibly useful for refining your thinking and developing your planning.