Unlocking potential, pitching for success

David Morgan founded Entrepreneurs Unlocked in the Autumn of 2019, soon after becoming an IOEE Academy. David saw IOEE Academy status as vital to his vision of enabling social and economic mobility through entrepreneurship.

Offering a range of workshops from a half day entrepreneurial skills exploration session, self-employment short courses, smart sub-contracting for people wanting to learn about getting into construction up to the full Offender to Entrepreneur Programme. David’s drive to set up was inspired by his time in the US in 2018 researching best practice in both custody and community based programmes where entrepreneurship underpins personal transformation. This was funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust following a successful grant application.

Research and learning from the US showed that the highest performing programmes had re-offending rates which were less than 10% and focused on 2 key areas:

  1. Understanding and developing your entrepreneurial mindset, overcoming barriers and how these can impact on your business and personal life.
  2. Developing a coherent and realistic business idea that can be a pathway to be sustainably self-employed.

David was pleased to secure a post-travel grant funded by the Rank Foundation to deliver Offender to Entrepreneur Programme in a prison to put into practice this learning. Taking the decision to work with HMP Liverpool as it served a large geographical area, with a large population.

  • This enabled the development of a range of workshops that focussed on the following:
  • Personal and business success, values, skills and experience, coping with change and challenges.
  • Types of business, risks and rewards, sales and marketing strategies, finance and trading legally.

The funding further enabled the learning from the US to be put into practice by engaging with specialist organisations and members of the business community to become part of the programme. This included:

  • Social media/content marketing, personal development and entrepreneurial insights and HMRC and taxation.

A great addition to the programme was the ability to reach out to volunteers who were business owners and professional coaches who gave their time to attend a coaching workshop. They listened to the men’s ideas, and provided a nurturing and supportive environment for honest and valuable two way feedback. Everyone who took part found it a positive and powerful experience. All of the above needed to be tied together in a coherent package and as David wanted the men to be able to gain formal recognition for their contribution. The IOEE Think_UP qualification was the ideal solution. It focussed the men on answering a simple question “Could running a business be right for you?”. It broke this question down into 2 elements: Understand yourself and explore/develop your idea.

The Think_UP  workbook brought together all the elements of the programme and acted as a refresher for the discussions and activities undertaken by the men. Due to the holistic nature of the qualification David was able to use this evidence to further underpin the requirements. This included the work that they had completed on their Business Model Canvas, Am I Ready to Trade self-assessments, evaluations of their ideas from the business coaches, professional discussions as well as observation and discussions from the pitching and graduation event.

This enabled the men to demonstrate their competences through visual, verbal and written responses collated over the duration of the programme. In an environment where people can struggle with formal and rigid assessment methods, this proved very appealing to the men, and David is pleased that they all met the requirements of the IOEE and successfully completed the programme. The programme culminated in a pitching session and graduation ceremony where the men presented their ideas to a range of invited guests from the local business community and the prison. They had to articulate their idea and get the guests to invest their “Walton Wonga” in the best ideas.

Due to the generosity of the grantee – The Rank Foundation and my partners, the winner was able to secure a wide range of support upon release that included:

  • A website for their business, £500 of equipment and resources.
  • Further prizes were awarded totalling over £600 for equipment and resources.

ALL of the men will also gain access free institute membership from the IOEE as well as social media and content marketing support from Elevate Start Up CIC, HMRC / Tax advice and guidance from The Tax Academy CIC. Offers of resettlement services including further training, access to housing and business mobile phones from Inside Connections CIC and last but not least business start-up support from David himself. We asked David about the Think_UP qualification he has been delivering, David said “I believe the Think_UP qualification is a great way for the learner to explore their options and provide a focus for their future learning. The value added comes from being able to access IOEE Campus and its range of online resources, forums and mentoring matching service post release. This additional support is a key element of starting and developing a successful business.”

I was proud of the progress the men had made, and all of them agreed it had indeed answered the question “Could running a business be for you”. I am pleased to say all of them said “YES”. I look forward to working with them and supporting them on their journey to a sustainable crime free future. It is worth noting that half of people that offered their support and provided specialist knowledge to the programme either in running workshops, attending coaching sessions or as part of the the pitching process were men and women who have experienced the criminal justice system and were willing to share their stories to inspire the men on the programme. I hope to be able to provide this programme in the future to other prisons. Having grant funding is a great way to start, but I need to take the advice I give in that developing a stable and secure income stream is the key to success.

If you’re interested in delivering our UP_Programme, from Think_UP, Start_UP or Scale_UP speak with a member of the IOEE team on 0845 467 4928 or get in touch via email at [email protected] and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.