1 Year On Blog Series -Lauren Burke

In 2012 I was funded by the University of Northampton to deliver an entrepreneurship curriculum to Youth Groups in Nakuru, Kenya. The course sought to identify and research problems within the community in order to develop desirable and viable business solutions.

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Over the process, I taught a variety of sessions, which gave me an appreciation of how people absorb knowledge differently. Adapting the curriculum and being flexible with individuals was a key aspect of the project and though not all my groups qualified for the start-up loan, each group benefited from the curriculum.

Having been inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth groups in Kenya I launched my small jewellery business MilkFiveSugars in Cardiff. This put me in control of my working hours and wage and changed the way I think about traditional “work” while placing me in a position where I did not have to apply for Job Seekers Allowance having moved to a new area as an unemployed recent graduate.

I took a risk and used my personal finances to set up my shop -terrified that I would be left with nothing- and to my surprise the project actually started making money, breaking even after 3 months and making a modest overall profit after 4 months. I was able to manage my finances and give myself a clear plan of the business aims and goals using techniques I learnt with Balloon Kenya and I hope to progress the shop in the future having gained interest from other organisations and businesses.

As a direct result of my involvement in Balloon Kenya I was employed by the University of Northampton to work on the development of an online learning resource for a social entrepreneurship student qualification. This involved compiling teaching materials, writing lesson plans and delivering the introductory lecture.

Given the pilot course was delivered face-to-face one of the main challenges of the project was to adapt the materials to computer-based learning. I identified the most beneficial teaching techniques by monitoring student progress and feedback, and subsequently developed these into the online curriculum. Throughout the project I focused on emphasising the benefits of understanding creative thinking, problem-solving and personal learning preferences, avoiding rote learning.

The experience I gained in the year since I graduated has been invaluable in job applications and interviews as even though I have a degree, the competition that I encounter in my job search means that I need an additional range of skills and experience to offer the employer and Balloon Kenya opened the doors to even further experience.

Written by Lauren Burke, Balloon Alumni 

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