Essex County Council’s Enterprise team INVEST Essex has provided £30,000 in funding to The Prince’s Trust to support business start-up grants for Essex participants on The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme.
Jamie Clarke is a young entrepreneur who has used The Prince’s Trust support and funding to take his business plan for marketing geodesic dome greenhouses to schools through his company, Biodome Systems Ltd, to the next level.
The aim of the Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme is to provide training, mentoring support and funding to enable unemployed young people aged 18-30 to create a business plan, test their assumptions and work towards launching a new business. Three in four young people supported by The Prince’s Trust move into work, education or training.
BACKGROUND TO JAMIE’S BUSINESS
Jamie, who left school at 15 with no qualifications, initially started a landscape gardening business. However, after teaching himself applied science and engineering, he decided to combine the three disciplines into a single business.
“I was inspired by the domes at the Eden Project and wanted to miniatuarise it,”
He designed a geodesic dome for use on the family allotment using information from the Internet and a computer program. However, he wanted to take the project further and saw an opportunity to turn it into a business selling domes to schools.
Joining the Enterprise Programme
Jamie had already built the prototype when he approached The Prince’s Trust.
“I realised it was a business opportunity, but needed guidance to make it work,” he said. “The Enterprise programme gave me the confidence to take the concept forward.”
The Prince’s Trust Enterprise begins with a 4-day course in business planning followed by a review. Candidates are able to present to a Business Launch Group, which may result in the award of a grant and/or loan to support the early stages of their business. Awards are typically in the region of £2,500 to £4,000 per participant, of which the business start-up grant portion provided by Essex County Council would be between £1,000-£1,500.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE BUSINESS
As the business has developed, Jamie has made some important changes to the product and to his marketing and production plans. He sees large potential savings in heating and cooling (30-70 per cent) because the dome offers the most efficient shape for air circulation. He is now integrating solar panels to improve sustainability and wrote his own computer program to monitor and manage temperatures.
The Harlow Education Consortium have pre-ordered two brand new domes, which will give students from all local schools the opportunity to visit a dome. Education authorities in other areas have also expressed an interest.
Although he made the prototype himself, Jamie recognises the importance of outsourcing production to specialist engineering companies so that he can concentrate on market education and selling. Looking ahead he wants to carry out more market research to quantify the school market, with indications that it could provide up to 10 years’ work.
“The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme gave me a strong grounding in business fundamentals of marketing, website, tax and bookkeeping,” Jamie explains. “Making a business pitch gave me good feedback on targeting schools. I used the start-up grant to create logos, a website, scale models, and arrange consulting with engineering companies.”
Jamie praised the help from his mentor, helping to set up a business bank account and giving him the confidence to get started. The mentor continues to work with Jamie to track progress and provide further advice and support for two years from the start of the business.
THE PROGRAMME’S ECONOMIC IMPACT
The Prince's Trust has supported more than 80,000 young people like Jamie to become their own boss since 1983. Independent research* indicates that the economic impact of the grant funding can be measured in new business start-ups and job creation, although it is challenging to report on further impacts due to the nature of the time a start-up takes to develop, launch, thrive and grow.
The analysis shows that, for every £1 invested in The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme, an estimated £4.31 of social value is created in return. The figures take into account the value created from the young people’s increased skills, as well as their economic earnings following the programme.
*Source nef consulting. The figures refer to the 5,652 young people starting on the programme in the 2010/11 financial year
ENTERPRISE BENEFITS FOR ESSEX
“It’s great that we can enable young people become economically active by starting a new enterprise. We recognise that business start-ups are a significant factor in achieving economic growth, but they are more likely to survive if they have access to good business advice. We are proud to help The Prince’s Trust provide that support.”
David Adlington, Head of Enterprise, Essex County Council.