PopUp Business School brings inspiration and energy to Tovil
Excitement, energy and inspiration were the words on everyone’s lips when PopUp Business School brought its own brand of entrepreneurial magic to Maidstone.
The nine-day course was designed to help would-be entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable new ventures – and the results were swift and impressive.
PopUp Business School’s philosophy is to inspire people to ‘have a go’ and follow their dreams rather than trampling on their ideas by warning them about the red tape they may have to deal with on the way.
“Too many people believe they need money and a business plan before they can even think about setting up on their own, and that simply isn’t true,” explained co-founder and lead trainer Alan Donegan. “All they really need is an idea and the drive to put it into practice.”
Held in Tovil Community Centre, the PopUp Business School was co-sponsored by Golding Homes and West Kent Housing Association with the aim of helping those who don’t fit naturally into the jobs market.
They included Lisa Hutchinson, a full-time mum who wanted to put her energy and enthusiasm to good use while still being at home to care for six year-old Italo and twins Lorena Rose and Viviana Grace (two).
She was invited to the event by Golding Homes, and by day two had started work on her website advertising Miss Lolli Clothing, a business that will customise children’s wear by adding colourful prints to quality clothing.
“The course was excellent and gave me the impetus I needed,” she said. “Alan made me realise that there was nothing stopping me and that all I needed was focus and commitment. I learned a huge amount.”
West Kent has sponsored two PopUp Business School events in the past – one in Chatham and one in Ramsgate – and it was the company’s track record that persuaded Integration Manager Keeley Atkinson to back the Tovil event.
“We know it works,” she commented. “PopUp Business School gets results by cultivating people’s ideas rather than crushing them by talking about bank loans and business plans. We know of several businesses that were set up as a result of earlier schools and are still running today.”
One of the past successes was Lisa Bishop, who had just left her job as a school administrator and was teaching synchronised swimming fitness classes when she attended the Chatham PopUp Business School event in October 2015.
She was back at the Tovil event to share her experience after setting up Lisa Bishop Tutoring. As a specialist synchro instructor and master trainer, Lisa now has a contract to deliver synchro lessons for Medway Council’s Swim Academy.
“The PopUp Business School gave me the belief that I did have a business,” she said. “I didn’t know when I walked in the door that it would be financially viable, but the team gave me some practical tools as well as the confidence to get out there and get on with it.
“I knew I could teach synchro because I had been doing it for nine years, but I needed advice on things like marketing, my website and the legal and financial bits and pieces. The course gave me that – along with the inspiration to follow my dream.”
The Tovil event provided plenty of practical advice throughout the nine days of the course, with would-be entrepreneurs able to attend as many or as few sessions as they wished – but it was the energy and excitement that was particularly evident.
Danni Kempson was just one of the people who found the course an inspiration, with the revitalised website she set up for Kempson Kollectables achieving almost instant results.
A Golding Homes resident, Danni was looking for help in developing her new business, which runs trading card games events for fans of Pokémon and the like.
“I saw the course advertised and I thought it might help me take the business forward as I have no business background,” she said. “The workshop on networking has opened my eyes to the possibility of getting my business out there and making it more successful.
“The course has covered all sorts of areas including legal issues, tax and VAT but always in a simple, fun and understandable way.”
As well as running weekly sessions at the Howard de Walden Community Centre in Maidstone, Kempson Kollectables organises special events, and after revamping her website with support from Alan, Danni sold three tickets for the next event that same evening.
Caroline McBride, Head of Community Development at Golding Homes, said the organisation was “really excited to be able to help local people get their business ideas the ground”, adding: “This is the first partnership of its kind for us and it’s great to be at the forefront of a new initiative aimed at helping get people into work.”
Another PopUp Business School is planned for the Parkwood area of Maidstone from 2 to 13 July.