03 Sep 2014

SUPA ACADEMY UPDATE: WHERE THERE’S A PIVOT, THERE’S A PURPOSE

By Lily

Guest post by Liam Tootill originally posted on Supa Academy

One of the most exciting parts of building and running a business is the liberating sense of freedom it can give you – driving the ship, shaping your own destiny. It’s not to say there are no pitfalls to consider, and it’s certainly a good idea to understand the risk, however with the right mindset and well-laid foundations – running your own company can be a really fulfilling adventure. You can create opportunities for people, whilst solving a need for a community.

This is the first instalment of our Supa Academy Updates. We want this journey to be shared and collaborated on, as we embark on a mission to disrupt enterprise education through applied and immersive experiences – looking to to educate and entertain. By provoking curiosity and building confidence in people – the development of tangible skills is a natural progression. And that is the aim.

We are on the summer cohort of Bethnal Green Ventures – an accelerator programme for businesses who want to change the world using technology. BGV invest in and support teams with new ideas to help build solutions to social and environmental problems through an intensive three-month programme. They are backed by the Cabinet Office and Nesta.

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Originally, when we first came up with the idea for Supa Academy, the concept was far narrower than it’s becoming. Initially, our plan was to build a mobile app and web platform that teaches young people how to set up and run their own businesses, via interactive video content and in-app games and challenges, set by successful entrepreneurs and established business leaders – the Supa Academy Business Heroes. Interactive dashboards will allow the students to track their progress as they make their way through the different levels and stages. The social impact we plan to see is the advancement in knowledge of our users, seeing their level of attainment rise. The dashboard will measure the peaks and troughs of their journey.

The world has gone mobile! In previous generations, never before have young people had as much access to mass-content in their pockets as they do now. Research studies have shown that young people spend 69% of their time on mobiles and tablets. Enterprise education is taught by some amazing organisations like Enabling Enterprise and InspireEngage. However, youngsters who want to engage with business studies and the the process of setting up a business, do not truly have an offering on mobile; where they spend a large proportion of their time. We want to put young people at the core of the experience and this project is about shaping their lives and careers.

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We still plan to develop the Supa Academy mobile app, however, we wanted to be broader with our offering and strongly felt the brand needed presence both on and offline. We believe that experience is made through multiple, tangible, touch-points and this helped us realise that we wanted to produce and run a series of workshops and mini-hacks in schools and for youth groups and organisations – teaching the basics of business through practical sessions; using hands-on, applied teaching methods. These will be used for us to test and validate our teaching methods ahead of the big event we’re building and planning for in early spring 2015 – The Supa Academy Hack. This is going to be a three-day event, where teams of young adults will compete against each other to build and run their own shop.

We will also be measuring social impact through video ethnography of youngsters, which will include: interviews from students, young entrepreneurs, head teachers and heads of business – validating the app as a tool for learning, positively impacting the personal development of young people. We want to see young people going from not having access to enterprise, to gaining more confidence and understanding. The hands on applied experience, beginning to instil curiosity, getting them excited by business, leading to increased motivation as they try their hand at it – from idea generation, to writing a business plan before taking the step to register a venture.

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At the early stage of building a business you need to be agile, flexible and ready to adapt. You get to mould your project, aligned to your (and your co-founders) vision but be aware to take the right, progressive steps to achieve your aims and objectives. Over the past six weeks (and even in the months leading up to setting up this new venture at notably, 10 Downing St and Buckingham Palace) we have had some really interesting meetings, conversations and began holding workshops – to ensure we stay on course to execute our plans.

Over the last six weeks of our incubator programme we have had a series of mentoring sessions, given by members of the Bethnal Green Ventures alumni – sharing advice and opinion on different stages of building a social, start-up. Between the three co-founders (and two Supa Academy ambassadors Jeremiah Emmanuel and Alex Mustier) we’ve attended mobile-app game development workshops, the Festival of Code, been up to the Manchester Enterprise Academy to hold a workshop with students aged 13-16 and held conversations with MTV, Pearson, Facebook and the BIS department – looking to build partnerships for the future. On top of this we’ve been constantly working to develop the Supa Academy syllabus, outlining the vision for the hack and beginning to form the strategic partnerships needed to pull it off.

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Over the next 6-month’s whilst co-creating our online platform via workshops & mini-hack’s, we will be working with around 700 young people (our platform will be closed to public and a password will be needed to log on). As we are delivering 48 workshops with an average group size of 15 young people.

Stay tuned and tell us your thoughts @SupaAcademy