Almost 100 girls from three schools across Manchester spent a day at AMBS learning about entrepreneurship and social enterprise.
The students from Levenshulme High School, Whalley Range High School and The East Manchester Academy School – all three of which are part of the Education Leadership Trust - heard direct from entrepreneurs who shared their experiences in setting up companies, as well as from MBA students who shared their own personal journeys in education and business.
Conference facilitator Patricia Perlman Dee, Senior Lecturer in Finance at Alliance Manchester Business School, said the purpose of the event was to inspire the students and stress that there are different opportunities in the working world and no one-size-fits-all.
“We wanted to get across that you don’t have to know at a young age exactly what you want to do and that there are many possibilities along the way. The purpose of the event was also to give the girls the chance to learn about sustainable goals and how community interest companies and businesses can work towards those goals.
“We also wanted to encourage the girls to learn more about transferable skills which can be applied to any job they do. After all, how do you know at a young age exactly what you want to do? Well, you don’t have to. As long as you have an open mind and have many inspiring people around you, you will hopefully see many opportunities coming your way.”
Zarka Bebbington from Levenshulme High School said the partnership with AMBS was important because it created opportunities for students to be in an environment where they can network with other students and also hear from inspiring women who have been on incredible journeys.
“I know from being involved in this event previously that students have been inspired by these stories and journeys, and it has encouraged them to apply for extra-curricular activities in the school and also for student leadership positions. I have also noticed during the time we have been involved over the last few years that students have developed relationships with other schools and they are talking to each other and coming up with some great ideas.”
The first session of the conference focused on ‘what is social enterprise?’ and was run by the Masood Entrepreneurship Centre based at AMBS. It talked through examples of social enterprise and also explained how it linked to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
It also included a presentation from Helen Hardy, founder of Alternative Football which runs community football leagues for girls. She talked about the company’s growth plans and how the business was all about being at the heart of the community rather than making a profit. As she said: “There is a lot of push in the media about simply getting rich from being an entrepreneur, but actually fulfilment comes from giving something special back. It is not all about making money.”
Helen said that you had to be passionate about your business idea. “I live and breathe football and you have to love what you are doing otherwise why bother? You also have to think about how you are going to market your product and you have to use your intuition and the power of social media to promote your business. You also need to have people around you, that support network is really important.”
Making a difference
During another session the girls also heard from MBA students Alex Chivers, Raiha Nawal, Aishwarya Shinde, Zara de Belder and Virgina Fabritzia Arguelles Tirado. They all talked specifically about their career in relation to social responsibility and making a difference. And they provided the girls with key insights into how to approach their careers and futures using their own experiences and lessons learnt.
And as part of the day the students also took part in group work to create a product and brand themselves around one of the SDGs.
Event organiser Michelle Kipling said: “The conference continues to be one of the School’s key activities where we can engage with our local communities and the next generation. There is strong evidence to indicate that the more opportunities a young person has to engage with business and the workplace, the less likely they will be NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).
“As a result of today, the girls may now consider their further education or employment at The University of Manchester. This event is not just about personal development but about breaking down barriers and raising aspirations.”