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Aspire goes digital

Aspire’s Enterprise Development Programme launched in May 2019, as a service designed to offer intensive, specialist advice to individuals experiencing barriers to self-employment. From photography to life coaching, boxercise to restoration and more – Aspire’s Enterprise Development Programme supports clients – many of whom are from marginalised backgrounds – to develop their skills and take their first steps towards realising their aspirations, and starting new businesses of their own.

Enterprise Development Programme Manager Sophie Kilmister

Enterprise Development Programme Manager Sophie Kilmister

The continued success of the programme throughout the challenges of COVID-19 is testament to the Aspire team’s proficiency with adapting support to minimise disruption for beneficiaries – even if it is not quite “business as usual”. Enterprise Development Programme Manager Sophie Kilmister continues to offer 1:1 self employment support over the phone, enabling prospective clients considering self-employment or starting a business to get in touch to discuss their ideas, and book subsequent telephone appointments with Sophie for support on a personalised basis.

Over the past year, Sophie has been working to ensure programme participants can sustain momentum for their learning, business planning and continue to progress towards their personal goals. This includes putting out online requests for industry equipment, trade-specific guidance and connecting programme clients with a graphic designer through the Team Oxford Furlough Exchange to develop branding for their new businesses – including a bakery business, a mobile hairdressing service, a boxercise fitness business and a gambling harms consultancy service.

The Enterprise Development Programme’s “Thinking of Starting a Business?” self-employment course returned digitally via the Zoom platform in October of 2020, and continues monthly to support a new cohort of learners facing barriers to employment – with ten participants completing the course in January. For two hours over the course of four days, learners explore business ideas, how businesses begin and access practical advice – with digital support available for those facing obstacles to accessing the course, such as a lack of digital devices or knowledge with using Zoom confidently.

“I have had the real pleasure of delivering four online courses to over thirty participatns so far, and – while it really is not the same as face-to-face – the groups have worked incredibly well together, supporting one another as they learn about self-employment in an unfamiliar online environment. At the end of each course, participants remark on how well they get to know each other, and feel less isolated. There have been benefits to moving online – we’ve been able to support around ten clients to connect digitally through the provision of equipment and pre-course 1:1 sessions to introduce them to Zoom, so in this time of isolation, they are more connected in their daily lives. I look forward to meeting each and every participant face-to-face as soon as we can to hear more about their journeys to self-employment!”

Find out more about Aspire on our Univ in the Community page. You can also email Aspire.

Published: 4 February 2021

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