Colin Higgins, YES Works

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With Accelerate 2018 recently launched, Colin Higgins from YES Works tells us about his experience with the programme in 2017.

"My advice to anyone thinking of applying to Accelerate is to go ahead and do it, don’t give it a second thought. Everyone I’ve met has been super welcoming and really supportive."

We employ five young people and we deliver landscaping projects to a wide variety of customers ranging from domestic customers through to public services and third sector housing associations. Around 75% of the young people working for us come from disadvantaged backgrounds both socially and educationally. Initially we offered them six months’ employment and then we’ve managed to secure them into full time roles. In doing so we’ve managed to put them through a two year programme, earning a salary but also training.

I was lucky enough to be accepted on to the Accelerate programme. My mentor Andy is a sounding board for ideas and I get to tap into his experience and business knowledge. Obviously he deals with larger businesses than mine, but a lot of the same principles exist.

I was very open-minded about Accelerate. I had never been involved in anything like this before. Andy has a wealth of experience dealing with big businesses and a lot of great ideas. Being part of the programme isn’t too time consuming. There are lots of different distractions when you run a business, but I think I’d be a fool not to make time to be involved in this, and so I find it becomes a priority and other things can be pushed to the side slightly.

I think you find with small business that you have so many different hats to wear and so many different jobs to do within the business that sometimes it can be a wee bit overwhelming. By networking with other people you realise it’s not just you – it isn’t a weakness in you or anything – everyone is experiencing those feelings and worries. It was good to catch up with people and see that they are experiencing exactly the same things.

To date the difference it has made is that when you have a plan or an idea in your head it gives you the chance to chat it through with your mentor. It provides a little more confidence in what you’re doing. We would never have had access to the networks we’ve had through the EY Foundation, or to these certain businesses and type of people.

YES Works is an award winning social enterprise delivering premium quality landscape gardening services. To find out more visit https://www.yesworks.org.uk/.

If you know a social enterprise who would benefit from being part of the programme, please share this opportunity with them: https://go.ey.com/2mpJUEr.