Spotlight On… Enterprising Learner, Sophie Bennett.

Sophie Bennett is a talented and hard-working student at New College Durham, who has mastered the art of successfully juggling two full-time pursuits; Sophie is working full-time as a waitress and barmaid at a local pub, whilst also studying for her Foundation Degree in Business and Management, and she is still coming out on top and getting distinctions in her assessments. With the IOEE accrediting the course’s Innovation, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship modules, we chatted to Sophie about what innovation means to her, thinking creatively, and how working and studying together has mutual benefit.

Sophie started her Foundation Degree in Business and Management in 2016 and is now in her second and final year. She is excelling in the innovation elements of the course, but she explains that she was less sure of it when she first began:

“In my first year I took the Innovation and Enterprise module and didn’t know what to expect, but one of the things we were asked to do at the end of it was to discuss what we thought innovation meant before the module, and what we thought now. And it was so different! It really showed you just how much you’d learnt and how much you’d developed your thinking. We studied a lot of theory in that class, such as breaking down the different levels of innovation - there’s Incremental Innovation, Transformational Innovation, and Radical Innovation - and it was really helpful to have that academic balance alongside the more creative elements.”

As part of Sophie’s assessment for this module, the students were asked to put together a proposal for a product or service that they had created, and would be graded accordingly to the viability of their innovation and the strength of their pitch, in a Dragon’s Den-style set-up. Sophie thought outside of the box and created a proposal that would not focus on the consumer directly, but would be appealing to the National Health Service. Sophie says:

“I wanted to create a pitch with a difference, so I developed an idea surrounding a product that would help patients who suffered from tremors, because of various types of conditions or diseases, and the product itself would send out vibrations that would ease these tremors in order to make everyday tasks easier and improve people’s overall quality of life. Of course, I don’t have the medical grounding, but the purpose of the exercise was about that creative thinking and pitch, and I wanted to make something that could be pitched to hospitals and the NHS. It was challenging, but the proposal went better than I thought, and I got a distinction for the module - which I’d hoped for, but wasn’t expecting! It can be really nerve-racking giving a proposal, but I find that the idea of it is worse than actually doing it. And you work together as a team with other students, so it always helps the nerves knowing that you’re in it together.”

Whilst Sophie is studying for her Foundation Degree, she is also is working full-time as a waitress and barmaid in her local pub at the same time, which involves both day and night shifts. However, whilst it can be difficult to balance working with studying, Sophie says she feels like both benefit each other:

“I have my own house and I need to work, but it can be really challenging meeting deadlines when you have a full-time job, and I’ll be coming home late and then sitting down at my desk to work on an assignment. However, I really enjoy my job and the people I work with are lovely and very supportive. Having this job actually helps my studying in some ways - for example, I’m currently doing a module called Work-Related Learning, where you have to do a placement, and I’m able to do that at my current place of work. I get to sit down with the pub’s Manager, the Marketing Manager, the HR Executive and the Accountant, and learn about all of the different areas of the business.”

Sophie has studied a number of modules on her course so far, including Marketing, Finance and Accounting, Managing People, Human Resources, Event Management and Entrepreneurship, but she is taking her time to figure out which elements of the course she might continue to further after she completes it. Sophie says:

“I get really excited about most things - which is the problem! I enjoy different aspects of different modules, and I’m really interested in Marketing, Accounting, and also Events Management - but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them yet. I might do a top-up year here at New College Durham, or go to Northumbria University, or I’m quite keen to do an AAT course - which is the Association of Accounting Technicians. Way down the line, I think I’d eventually like to run my own pub, but for now, there’s going to be a lot more studying!”

For more information on IOEE Enterprise Academy, New College Durham, please visit