Case study: Stretching skills to start a business

The challenge

With 60% of new UK start-ups closing their doors within three years*, starting your own venture and making it a success is extremely difficult, especially if you have little or even no previous business experience. It’s even more of a personal and potential financial risk if you are leaving an accomplished career to take this leap.

That was a risk that Michael Weeks was willing to take. With an entrepreneurial streak and a dream to open his own yoga business, Michael decided to swap his teaching career to start his new business – Yoga Mike – offering yoga classes to both adults and children.

Michael had all the essential teaching skills but with no experience of running a business, he needed to learn how to make his new venture a profitable success. With an ambition of working with 8,000 school children in a year, Michael needed to understand the basics of how to run a business, from managing finances to strategic planning. Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs and having a support network was also important for Michael as he started his journey.

Michael commented: “Working with young people is a real passion of mine and I have always dreamed of owning my own business. It was a big leap to leave my job, and although I have confidence in my teaching abilities, I didn’t have the knowledge in how to run a profitable business.”
Knowing how important an online presence is for growing a business and boosting commercial awareness, Michael also wanted to improve his website’s usability, as well as include functions for online booking and access to online learning resources.

The solution

Michael heard about the Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) programme through a friend and fellow business owner who had benefited from the same training. The programme offers fully funded training courses to employees of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Michael was introduced to Enterprise Made Simple, one of the registered training providers for Calderdale College in Tees Valley, that oversees the delivery of the SSW programme. After speaking with the team, they identified the most appropriate course and Michael enrolled onto a Level 2 Certificate in Developing Enterprise Skills.

The SSW programme supports businesses looking to grow and is available to SMEs seeking non-compulsory, work-based training. It is free to businesses through the European Union’s European Social Fund (ESF) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

As part of the Level 2 training, business owners including Michael, attended a residential learning experience. Around 80 people took part in a practical weekend which gave those involved the opportunity to use their business as a case study. It also offered a unique opportunity for business owners to share their experiences and learn from each other’s challenges.

Speaking about the residential weekend, Michael added: “It was really useful to be able to speak to other business owners from varied sectors as it gave me the confidence that I am taking my business in the right direction. I’m still in contact with many of the people from the course who are always happy to answer my questions.”

After completing his Level 2 Certificate, Michael was keen to learn more which led to him enrolling on to a three-day immersive course to achieve his Level 3 Certificate in Business Innovation, Sustainability and Growth. The course built upon his Level 2 and included different modules covering topics such as digital, enterprise and models essential for a business owner to understand.

As part of the Level 3 training Digital Stars, a digital training provider, hosted workshops to develop media, website, SEO and online marketing skills.

Outcome

With a strong business plan in place, Yoga Mike is now currently working in 40 schools in the Teesside and Durham area and has taught 5,000 pupils with plans to reach over 10,000 young people in the North East by September 2020.

Not only this, Yoga Mike’s services are in such high demand that Michael has hired a freelance yoga teacher to help teach lessons, which has given him more time to focus on developing his business.

The digital support and guidance have helped him develop a sleek and professional Yoga Mike website which can easily be found through search engine results, a result of effective SEO (search engine optimisation) training and development.

In addition, the website has seen a 100% traffic increase and a 40% increase in online bookings since attending the training. Michael now has ambitious online growth plans to develop a platform with digital resources that will enable worldwide access to his yoga lesson plans, videos and supporting learning materials.

The training from the SSW programme taught Michael the value of business growth training and it encouraged him to enrol at Teesside University and study an intensive business programme. Following the course, Michael secured the largest funding grant given at the university – achieving 100% of his full ask after pitching. Michael has also recently met with Enterprise Made Simple to discuss the next steps for Yoga Mike and further training.

“I am so thankful for the SSW programme in helping me kickstart my business.” He said: “The training has made me more creative and has given me useful models and processes to assist with developing new business ideas and routes to market. The future is very exciting and next steps include developing merchandise with the Yoga Mike branding and creating a tool that lets students make their own cartoon characters with yoga names.”

Success from skills training

The SSW programme has helped over 2,630 employed people in the Tees Valley area, with over 830 businesses, including Yoga Mike, having taken advantage of the opportunity. They are all now reaping the benefits and looking to continue training to help their business growth.

Ebrahim Dockrat MBE, Director of Commercial Services and Partnerships at Calderdale College, the main contractor for Skills Support for the Workforce, discusses the success of the project: “The SSW programme plays a key role in helping business owners and their employees develop their skills and confidence. We are proud of the various training courses we have on offer that meet the needs and demands of businesses at whatever stage they are currently at. It is brilliant that we are able to help start-ups such as Yoga Mike by providing them with the foundations to thrive.”

For more information on the Skills Support for the Workforce project, please visit http://ssw.fundingunit.org.uk/

Reference

*The Telegraph, 24.01.19 “Start-ups across the UK are going bust – they need more careful management for our economy to boom” Web: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/01/24/start-ups-across-uk-going-bust-need-careful-management-economy/