Tales from the Town

Rotherham's efforts to encourage business do not just involve teaching it in schools, but also working with local firms and encouraging young people to set up on their own.

They told the BBC their stories.


John Fox, a business consultant and owner of Horton Printers, loaned a school £150 under a scheme called Make £5 Blossom.

Children were allowed to invest the money in their business ideas - which included designing, printing and selling Christmas cards.

"I wasn't sure how it would work out with five, six and seven-year-olds, but they really were an inspiration," says Mr Fox.

"They had such wonderful ideas. They know no boundaries of what they can't do, so suggested all sorts of things in terms of how we could market the product, how we could sell it.

"One of the common problems most businesses find is recruiting young people from school and getting them to come with the right understanding of business, work ethic and maybe with some ideas of running their own business."


Claire, aged 10 (left), was one of hundreds of children who has had an early taste of commercial success under the Make £5 Blossom scheme.

With three others, she invested £20 in a business that recorded, produced and sold a CD of Christmas carols featuring each class in her school, (not to mention the teachers singing Away In A Manger). The disc sold out and, after some negotiations with a local college to help with the recording, netted sales of about £700 and profit of more than £500.

"Because everyone was in it - not just chosen people - we thought it would be quite popular, because everyone would buy it and their families would buy it," Claire says.

"We sold it for £2 each and so it was quite successful. Our class ended up going on a school trip to the zoo. That was good fun, especially because we'd earned it ourselves."


Fashion designer Lucy Bennett moved back to Rotherham after studying at university - and was put in touch with Rotherham Youth Enterprise (RYE), which helps businesses get off the ground - not just to support individuals but in the hope of generating jobs and wealth in the town and its surrounding area.

Encouraged to apply for a loan from the Princes Trust, she started her label, Roc and Doll, and bought everything she needed to get going, from mannequins to machinery. RYE then provided business premises with free rent for her first six months.

Although still operating from a cramped workshop on the edge of town, Lucy is now employing machinists to bring the production of her designs in-house, and does four collections each year - serving independent boutiques.

She recently won a competition to have some of her clothes stocked by Asos - one of the UK's most popular fashion websites.

"Even now, I get help with little things," she says of the youth enterprise project. "You get encouragement and support and a lot of places, you don't get that. It's a big help, definitely."

She adds that being an entrepreneur is not easy.

"You've never got enough time and cash flow is a problem, you always seem to be chasing money off people.

"It's been a tough couple of years but with this order from Asos, hopefully things are really going to come together and really pick up."


Self-employed garden designer Lee Bestall is hired one day a week to come into Rotherham schools and mentor children.

Part of his role is assisting with the growing vegetables in a school allotment patch - which are then sold at a market stall or used for communal meals.

"Self-belief and self-confidence are some of the most important attributes you need as a self-employed person. Being able to motivate yourself is key, really," he says.

"Many people in this area live in quite a negative environment at home and because there have not been many positive experiences in their lives, we need to instill that positivity and self-belief in those young people.

"I worked with a student last year who was a potential Neet (not in education, employment or training). Through the programme we worked with him on, he was able to develop his confidence, financial literacy skills and communication in general.

"He's much more of a confident person now, he's able to approach customers and has the confidence to communicate with people at a higher level."


At 18, Dominic Beck has just scooped some impressive A-level results.

But rather than go straight to university, he has decided to have a go at running his own business.

"Making money is the aim of the game," he says candidly.

His firm is in its early stages, but he plans to offer motivational talks - initially in schools. When the economy picks up, he hopes to find demand in small and medium-sized businesses, too.

For now, he is trying to get £500 grant from a fund run by UK Steel - set up when the steel industry collapsed in the town.

"I still do the sort of things other 18-year-olds do, going to the pub, getting drunk," he admits.

"But instead of playing pool, I'm talking to the older blokes about business."

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