2 MIN READ
Date Posted: 4 January 2016
Lavinia Cook, Founder of S-Leadership, recently took part in EY Foundation’s 2015 Accelerate programme. EY Foundation had an exclusive interview with the budding social entrepreneur to ask her about her business, her recommendations for young people wanting to set up a business, and the benefits of the EY Foundation’s Accelerate programme.
- Tell us about S-Leadership. What does your start-up do?
The issues facing today's young women are vast. Low self-belief, low self-confidence and low aspirations all lead to them making decisions which don't reflect their true selves, and fall short of their true potential.
Through leadership programmes S-Leadership empowers young women to discover their unique strengths and talents, replace limiting beliefs, and take the initiative in realising their potential. The programmes develops a deep awareness of today’s genders issues which act as limitations to young women reaching their potential.
The programmes have a particular emphasis on identity, risk and managing change, and the essential skills they focus on delivering include developing a participant’s intra- and inter-personal skills. The skills taught are transferable and can be applied across personal, social, academic, and professional spheres of life.
The aim is to empower young women to be better equipped to face the world, be inspired to reach for their goals, and strive to be the next generation of leaders. Though currently only working with young women, the organisation will also be working alongside young men in future, to create a stronger, more effective society and economy.
- What made you think about starting up a business/enterprise on your own?
I have found that my personal, academic and professional experiences have all contributed to my drive for starting up my own business. Academically, I found not enough help was available to decide career paths and develop important leadership skills; skills that can be applied in personal, academic and professional spheres of life. I also found that guidance in the form of mentoring or coaching was not easily accessible for young people. My employment experience – my roles range across finance, administration, environmental advocacy, teaching and youth mentoring – has revealed a gap in the area of leadership skills and emotional intelligence across many businesses, in respect to workplace training.
- What sort of help has the Accelerate programme given you?
The programme provided me with a business coach who helped keep me on track and gave me the support I needed. There were also generic business workshops which were useful and relevant.
The programme also gave me the chance to win professional expertise from EY. Having found it difficult to receive support from other sources, EY Foundation provided me with the professional expertise I needed to take my venture to its next stage. The application was very easy to fill out – I would like to do it again!
- Do you think young people get enough help from businesses and other organisations when starting out?
In general no. You have to look very hard for opportunities to help you and your business. I think help needs to be more accessible. It can be time consuming to look for help of the kind the EY Foundation provides.
- If someone is thinking of giving their business expertise to the Accelerate Programme but isn’t sure whether to, what would you say to them?
It’s a really good opportunity to meet interesting, aspirational, driven and ambitious people. Being involved helps the entrepreneur, but also will help businesses – they will feel fulfilled by helping someone start up their own business.
- What are your tips for a young person thinking about starting their own business?
A mentor is definitely needed. You will also get a lot of opinions and advice from people around you – so I would say, only listen to those that you personally respect.