Guest Blog – Katie Buckingham, winner of the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy NEF Competition
In the summer of 2013, I entered and won a competition for the New Entrepreneurs Foundation (NEF). To be considered for the award, I was required to write a pitch detailing how and why I think I would be part of a next generation of great entrepreneurs.
‘Explain – in no more than 500 words – why you think you will be part of the next generation of great entrepreneurs’.
Although I have entrepreneurial experience, this was the first time I had come across something like this. The prize for my win was an invite to one of the most illustrious networking events in the country at the House of Lords, which took place overlooking the River Thames. It was attended by some very high profile business people along with some up and coming young entrepreneurs, my personal task being to network with as many of the other guests as possible. The event was a success and one that I really enjoyed and from this gained some very valuable contacts, some of which I am still working with to this date.
At the time of applying for the award, I was a student at The Peter Jones Enterprise Academy in Solihull completing a one year Level 3 BTEC Diploma in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. I chose this career route as starting my own business is something I have always wanted to do. I researched the Peter Jones Academy and its partners and decided this was the platform I would need to progress with my career.
It was here that I developed P.A.W.S., a pet product business. This business aimed to specialise in providing starter packs and other products for puppies and small dogs. I enjoyed running this business, gained vital experience and support, and sold many products. This contributed to a third of my pitch.
This was not my first venture though, as I explored the idea of starting my own business as early as 17, when I developed a mental health project aimed at raising awareness and reducing the stigma attached to mental health. It was entitled ‘WATS (We are the same) Mental Health?’ and was funded by my local council.
I chose to do this as it is something that I am passionate about, and feel as though it is time that young people can have the confidence to talk about their mental health and provide a forum for them to discuss and seek help if needed.
The main outcome of this project was the production of a resource pack (including activities on mental health and information) which is now used in various educational institutions, charities, GPs practices and mental health services. This gave me an unbelievable sense of satisfaction, and proved to me that I was pursuing a career that I was passionate about. This start of my entrepreneurial journey played a big part in my pitch for the NEF award.
It was because of this that I then started Altruist Enterprises (altruistuk.com), a social enterprise which provides mental health training and consultancy to businesses, educational institutions and local authorities.
I have been running Altruist Training and Consultancy CIC since June 2013 and now have various different clients from a vast selection of different sectors.
My main aim for 2014 is to expand further into the corporate world, and help employers recognise the symptoms of stress and mental illness early on in order to support their employees.