Peter Jones, CBE, became a household name in 2005 when he started appearing as a panellist on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den, where he has since invested in a number of successful business ventures. In 2009, he set up the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy (PJEA) to help young people develop their entrepreneurial skills.

If you’re currently in Year 10 or 11, you may be wondering what to do next once you finish school. While many choose to pursue life as a university student, this certainly isn’t a path for everyone, particularly if you have dreams of setting up a business and being your own boss. If you feel this might be the right path for you, this post aims to explain how a PJEA course can help you on your way:

1. Learn how to write a business plan

Before you even start to set up your own business, you need to come up with a robust business plan. The BTEC Level 2 in Understanding Enterprise and Entrepreneurship is a one year course assessed completely through coursework, which will show you how to put together your plan, and ensure your venture has the best chance of being fruitful in the long run.

Ultimately, you should then be able to use this to pitch to investors.

Units in the course include:

  • Researching your Market
  • The Marketing Plan
  • Financial Modelling and Forecasting
  • The Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Managing Personal Finance
  • Creating a Vision for your Business Plan
  • The Business Environment
  • Preparing and Pitching a Business Plan
  • Leadership and Teamwork
  • Toolkits for Idea Generation
  • Enterprise in the Workplace

2. Get some hands-on business experience

Courses at the PJEA are excellent at providing all the necessary skills and attributes for building a business, including the steps involved in creating a business and how to handle the day-to-day challenges of running it.

The Level 3 BTEC in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, and Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship in Innovation and Growth both offer opportunities to get some business work experience under your belt. This will look great on your CV to potential employers, and give you an insight into what’s involved in running a business, and how you can make an impact.

3. Manage your own project

The Level 3 BTEC in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship comes with a work placement opportunity, where you will be given your own project to manage. This will help you develop those crucial management skills needed for running your own business, making you a more adept and efficient leader when you begin to employ other people to help you.

David Humpston, PJEA Entrepreneur of the Year at Amersham & Wycombe College, says:

“"The PJEA course at College provided me with the skills set I needed to run my own business, from great tutors with real business experience, sessions to guest speakers with incredible life stories, and the chance to receive one-to-one mentoring from people who have 'been there and done it'."

4. Pitch a new business opportunity to an existing organisation

Even if you feel entrepreneurship is the right path for you, not everyone may have a business idea to start with.

The Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in Enterprise gives you the chance to be enterprising in an existing organisation. This could be in any sector or industry, where you will be exposed to a number of real-life business situations. 

Your role could involve a number of activities, such as market research and customer communication, and may even include taking the lead on projects. You will then use the entrepreneurial skills gained from this experience to plan and pitch a new business opportunity to your employer.

By the time you have completed this course, you have had some inspiration for your own business, where the skills you have gained at the PJEA will prove invaluable to getting it off the ground.

5. A chance to be innovative

The Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship in Business and Growth allows individuals to come up with their own innovative ideas that will help improve the efficiency of processes within their employer’s business. Again, your role may be in the public or private sector, and might involve product development, research, or management.

This course can get you thinking about ideas for your own business, and give you the confidence to put them into action. It can also lead to permanent employment with your current organisation, or allow you to seek a suitable role elsewhere.

Should you wish to stay in education, it will allow you to progress to higher level qualifications in business-related subjects (please see Step 6 below).

6. Improve your business education

Depending on which PJEA course you start with, each one allows you to progress to a higher level course should you wish to continue your entrepreneurial education. One could argue that the more knowledge and skills you are equipped with, the easier it will be when you come to set up your own business.

Every year, a number of PJEA students choose to progress to another course in the academy, either because they want to learn more about enterprise, or want to use the extra time to think about what they want to do next, while earning another qualification. Some even go on to apply for a degree at university.

However many PJEA courses you choose to enrol for, you can be sure that each one will facilitate the process of making your business dreams a reality.

Jamie Gamble, PJEA Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 at Amersham & Wycombe College says:

"Since joining the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy I have achieved more than I ever thought was possible. The Academy has been amazing for growing my business.  Having the opportunity to pitch to Peter Jones and the other board members was fantastic."

7. Build your business confidence and receive recognition

Not only will the PJEA give you a personal boost through the skills, knowledge and experience acquired throughout the duration of your course, but you will also have the chance to gain recognition from all your efforts.

Every year, the PJEA runs a set of Academy Awards, presented at their annual graduate awards. Categories include:

  • National Entrepreneur of the Year (the most prestigious award, where a six finalists are invited to pitch a business idea to Peter Jones, with the winner given a £5,000 investment to develop their venture further)
  • Inspirational Student
  • Level 2 Student of the Year
  • Level 3 Student of the Year
  • Enterprise Tutor of the Year
  • Business Enterprise Manager of the Year

If you undertake a course at the PJEA, you will have the chance to be nominated for these awards, and winning one of them can open the door to other opportunities and further recognition. For example, PJEA graduate Kyle Raffo, Managing Director of Expand Digital, received the Entrepreneur of the Year title at the Business Networking Awards 2016.

This year, entrepreneur Jack Crofts is a finalist for the National Entrepreneur of the Year award, for his exclusive yarn business Vicuna Royale. He says:

“The National Entrepreneur of the Year Award is the highest accolade within the PJEA and it is an absolute honour to be within a chance of receiving the title- it's my chance to represent young entrepreneurship nationwide.

Business has always been what I want to do, ever since I was a child setting up pretend businesses in my bedroom, having been inspired by my late grandad. The PJEA has helped me turn this dream into a reality, now managing director of my own international company.

I have developed so many skills, met many amazing people and had opportunities I could have never before dreamed of- all things which are responsible for making me into a successful entrepreneur, all whilst being 18.

I am passionate about my business, the projects I am involved in but moreover, I am passionate about promoting young entrepreneurship- something this award will give me the opportunity to do.
I know firsthand the obstacles young entrepreneurs face and I find it incredibly sad to see young dreams shattered.

The Academy helps to prevent this from happening, showing young people how they can succeed and giving them an opportunity to make their dreams a reality."

A PJEA course is a great start if you are still at school or college and think a life in business is the next step for you. Take a look at their Courses section for more details on the individual programmes available, and search a map for your nearest PJEA Centre.

Even if you think a PJEA course isn’t right for you, there are other avenues where you can pursue a business career, including BTEC Diplomas in Business, NVQs in Business Administration, A level in Business Studies, and a wide range of business degrees offered at most UK universities.

Alternatively, you could try finding employment directly out of school, so you can earn while learning. If you have already completed or have lined up some relevant work experience, this will go a long way to helping you get a foot on the job ladder.

If you have any comments, suggestions or feedback on my post, or have your own story to tell about how you set up your own business, please reply below.