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17/08/2021

Volunteer Business Support Scheme Supports ELSA Next Generation to Empower Young People Nationwide



"If someone cannot learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn." This is one of the bold convictions that fuel inspiring female business owner Jane Shipley’s resilient efforts in the face of adversity, to continue helping young people reach their potential.

Founded in 2015 by Jane, ELSA Next Generation which stands for Education, Learning, Skills and Achievement, is a Community Interest Company that delivers bespoke educational programmes to young people nationwide. Over 20,000 young people have been inspired so far, supported by over 500 businesses across 50 educational settings. These numbers are growing, following the crucial support provided to ELSA by the Hertfordshire Volunteer Business Support Scheme (VBSS) during the Coronavirus pandemic.

As a result of the pandemic, Jane’s business was in crisis. Her social enterprise business model was no longer working due to the restrictions introduced by the various lockdowns and Government guidelines. Pre-pandemic, ELSA was not set up to work remotely, relying primarily on face-to-face events and delivery of learning. The business strategy desperately needed pivoting in order to help the business to survive, and then establish a plan for growth.

Looking for support to navigate a challenging landscape, Jane applied to the VBSS mentoring scheme to get her business back on track. Devised by Hertfordshire Growth Hub, in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, VBSS offers free and bespoke business mentoring from highly experienced mentors to local micro, small and medium sized businesses, as well as sole traders.

Through the scheme, Jane was matched with her mentor Roma Bhowmick, a strategist, leadership and change consultant as well as a senior visiting lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire’s Business School. Roma’s mentoring sessions provided Jane with the opportunity to discuss, challenge, review and adjust her business plan in light of the pandemic. They both had regular one-to-one meetings through video calls and explored ways to improve ELSA’s business model and strategy, and consider adjustments to ELSA’s portfolio of programmes and workshops including developing a range of services that could be delivered virtually. Through marketing support, the business rebranded and took on it’s new name, ‘ELSA Next Generation’.

Moreover, Roma also introduced her to new networks and to many of her own contacts, which in turn opened the doors to many new business opportunities. ELSA is now working with schools in the City of London, is facilitating workshops at the London Careers Festival and is part of the City Family of Schools as a member, all for the first time.

Jane also accessed further support from the University of Hertfordshire. She was connected to the University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) Marketing Intelligence service, which provided great insights to apply immediately and for the future. Jane was also part of a University of Hertfordshire Masters Project, which in turn provided a full evaluation of her business model. She also received help with exploring fundraising opportunities from another mentor in the scheme, Corinna Hartwig.

It is a wonderful offer that has enabled me to reflect, evaluate and make changes for the positive. I have already recommended [VBSS] to more than 10 fellow business owners and will continue to do so...nothing to lose and everything to gain.” – Jane Shipley.

The rest of 2021 is looking bright for ELSA Next Generation. Implementing changes to the business strategy and model, along with adopting new approaches has increased the client base, along with turnover and profit. As a result of the support from the VBSS, Jane adds, “My business is now in a very different place than it was on first meeting Roma. I now promote myself with true conviction and belief knowing that ELSA provides a valuable service and is making a huge difference to so many young lives.”

Looking forward, Jane will continue to use the knowledge, resources and networks that have been forged through the mentoring scheme. She is more confident in marketing ELSA and looks forward to remaining in contact with her supportive mentor, who has also become like a friend; all through the free support from the VBBS.

Hundreds of businesses have already benefitted from the scheme, will you be next? If you think your business could also benefit from the scheme and access to a range of experienced mentors, login or register (it’s free!). Why wait? Visit the Volunteer Business Support Scheme funded listing where you can express your interest.

Interested in joining the scheme as a mentor? This is a truly rewarding experience where you can play a significant role in helping business owners to overcome the challenges they are facing, by acting as a critical friend and coach to talk to, explore new ideas and provide feedback. Learn more and apply here.