Ali Golds

Success stories

Ali Golds

  • Degree: PGCE (PCE)
  • Graduated: 2009

What did you study at the University of Exeter?

Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PCE)

What is your business all about?

We work with young people who either have, or who want to set up, their own businesses – usually in colleges – via educational programmes, mentoring, seminars and summer schools. We also work with colleges on a consultancy basis, helping them to embed enterprise into everything they do.

What is your business’s unique selling point? What is your main form of advertising? Who are your main competitors?

Our USP is that we only use people who have their own businesses to deliver our programmes. They aren’t delivered by lecturers/teachers in colleges but by real-life entrepreneurs.

We don’t really advertise at the moment, we call colleges directly. We network extensively, and also find that word of mouth recommendations are key.

There are no real direct competitors, as the market is very diverse and there are lots of companies that deliver variations on what we do. However, Princes Trust and Young Enterprise are obvious main players.

Where did your idea come from? What is the start-up story behind your business?

Having spent 25 years in business, working for other people as well as setting up successful businesses myself; I moved into teaching in 2009, with the sole aim of bringing business to young people and encouraging them to move into enterprise themselves. What I hadn’t realised was that there were already young people with businesses, and as soon as they found out that I had set up businesses myself, I was constantly asked for advice and support – and the idea for Enterprise Club began to form. Students would tell me that they could not access help anywhere else and I apparently offered them exactly what they needed; common sense advice, hands-on support, and help with completing business plans and presentations.

In August 2010, I decided to put Enterprise Club on a more formal footing, and devised a set of practical seminars/workshops for entrepreneurial students. I enlisted the help of local business people to act as mentors, and planned an entire set of complementary services around the programme.

Other colleges heard about the work I was doing, and wanted to be involved, and I then decided to leave teaching and set up the business on a full-time basis in May 2011. I now employ 2 associates, work with a number of colleges and other youth organisations, and also mentor entrepreneurial young people outside of the programmes that seem to seek me out!

I am working on a number of other business projects, including a youth finance service and a conference.

What things helped you learn how to run a new business? Has there been anything or anyone in particular that has helped you along the way?

I am self-taught – I made the mistakes and learnt from it. Believe me, there were many and I am still learning even with my 4th business. However, there are lots of places that young people can access help and information from both online, and printed. www.startups.co.uk is the one I always direct people to, and the Lloyds Bank Small Business Guide is also invaluable. My company is also very happy to offer help and advice to budding youngtrepreneurs www.operation-enterprise.com

What do you think has been your key to success so far?

Perseverance. Determination. Single-minded focus. The ability to smile even though everything seems hopeless (and there are lots of days like that when you start your own business!). A belief that what I am doing will work. Eventually.

Have you made any mistakes along the way? Is so, what have you learnt from these? And further, if you could go back in time, are there any things that you would change or would do differently?

I made many mistakes, happily, because you only learn by making them. My financial estimates were wildly inaccurate in my first business, mainly because it was very difficult to accurately estimate them. My recommendation would always be to take estimates of incomings and halve them, and double expenditure estimates.

Never employ members of your family, it rarely works.

Make sure you have partnership agreements, even if you are working with your husband/wife. You must always protect your own interests.

Continually update your business plan. Don’t write one for the bank manager, and then put it on a shelf and ignore it.

What can we look forward to in terms of your business? Have you got any future plans for it?

My business is growing quickly and we aim to reach as many young people as possible who need our help and support to set up their own businesses.

What advice do you have for University of Exeter students who are looking to start their own business?

Go for it! The experience is invaluable and whilst a lot of businesses fail, with the right (continual) planning, precise market research, and the right team, you really can make a success of it.