Schools are creating a host of ingenious ways to draw out the entrepreneurs of the future, highlighted perfectly by Cath Kidston’s involvement with co-educational boarding school Milton Abbey in Dorset. Paul Kelly takes a closer look at that and how other schools are drawing out the entrepreneurs of the future

Richard Branson and Alan Sugar are famous examples of successful entrepreneurs who did not receive formal education beyond the age of 16 and it is often said that entrepreneurs are born, not made. However, Richard Branson’s Headmaster at Stowe school perceptively told him on his departure that he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire – perhaps schools do indeed encourage inadvertently (or not) ‘mini entrepreneurs’.

Milton Abbey in Dorset is one such school that is proud of its historic culture of cultivating entrepreneurial and ambitious characters. This has been boasted by the introduction of an Entrepreneur in Residence project in 2014, which will be fronted by Cath Kidston. This will involve students competing against each other in the development and launch of their own business concepts with an initial start-up of £100. Many schools offer Btecs in the Sixth Form and these can quite consciously develop an entrepreneurial spirit amongst their students. For the Btec Hospitality final project students are given a budget and a client brief for a corporate event. This involves drawing up a complete proposal for presentation, judged by an outside audience. The students’ often imaginative and ambitious ideas of lavish barbeques or Rolls Royce treasure hunts are all subjected to close scrutiny and carefully costed out. The quest to meet budgetary demands inevitably encourages creativity and initiative. Countryside Management Btecs can require students to run a real event to which paying customers must be attracted. It is quite a sight to witness students keenly up at 5am anxiously awaiting the arrival of pheasant chicks that need to be raised for a shoot.


Milton Abbey actively promote business awareness among their students

The very popular, well established Young Enterprise’s flagship company competition, which requires students to set up and run a real firm for a year under the guidance of a business volunteer, attracts 30,000 entrants annually. The students are required to manage people and make real life business decisions, agreeing on product price and delivery strategies. The competition has encouraged hundreds of business ideas to flourish in schools throughout the country, from Millfield’s valentine roses, Charterhouse’s hoodies, Haileybury’s successful differentiated pyjama bottoms and St Paul’s School competition winning perfume pen.

Schools can collapse timetables to run management conferences and these events are enlivened by a series of external speakers describing their own start-up ideas, raising awareness of unfashionable industries and demonstrating opportunity and risk taking in practice. A key event of Wycombe Abbey’s annual management conference is a contest run by Deutsch Bank, which revolves around the extraction of a mineral and exploiting opportunities created by developing mining methods, altering regulations, government changes and price movements. The winning team is usually the one most skilled at correctly reading the market and anticipating fluctuating demand.


Cath Kidston heads up Milton Abbey’s Entrepreneur in Residence project this year

Business Studies classes foster an interest in the business environment beyond the necessary case studies by running fantasy share projects. I remember earnest discussions in tutor groups over the likelihood of which companies’ shares would do well and advised to look around and see what particular products people were buying and who made them. Students were often caught nervously watching the latest share prices.

Good schools do a great deal to develop initiative and encourage risk taking, which are the hallmarks of an entrepreneur. They encourage students to view the world differently by actively engaging in new activities, mixing with a range of nationalities, embarking upon varied placements and courses, hearing a range of differing views and engaging in debate with teachers. Knowledge of the business world can be imparted through imaginative teaching in any subject; for example the discussion of the art market and art insurance in Art History. In Geography the Introduction to Rivers includes the discussion of water management careers and the relevance of the resources for other areas such as tourism. Through such activities students acquire much knowledge of the business world and Godolphin school’s new Elizabeth Godolphin award will formalise this process by rewarding active engagement with its careers management programme.

Paul Kelly is Head of Schools and Higher Education Placement at Gabbitas Education Consultants;

Most Read