It was a day full of chat, hugs and excitement when we met with the course graduates yesterday. Starting a new business and being an Entrepreneur is no easy task so with that in mind, the course mentors decided to meet with the students a few weeks after the course had finished to see how they were progressing. During Dr. Lisa Ryan’s welcome she referred to the day as a “re-ignition day” and with the help of Brendan Allen (@castlemine) and Ronan Byrne (@friendlyfarmer), it certainly was that and more. Watching the students interact with one another was like watching a group of old friends get together – it was obvious that the course had meant much more to people than just acquiring knowledge and skills, it was the foundation of great friendships, connecting a group of likeminded people and our personal favourite, a great “networking” outlet.
With Brendan and Ronan involved in yesterday’s meeting the students knew they would not be left in their comfort zone for too long and so, after some coffee and networking, the students were back in presenting mode. Each student presented their own journey to the class, from enrolling on the course, to what they achieved throughout and what they are doing now.
It was exciting, enlightening and emotional listening to each student and their success stories. Everyone had shared the same apprehension and nerves at the beginning of the course, some believing they were too old to return to education, others feeling they had no life experience, little confidence and confused as to what step to take next. However, looking around the room yesterday I wouldn’t associate those feelings with any of the people that were sitting in front of me, all we (the mentors and I) could see were strong, skilled, ambitious food entrepreneurs.
We were delighted that the feedback on the course was so positive with many of the students commenting that it was one of the best courses they had ever completed. The practical learning environment topped the list as being the most positive aspect of the course for many. They believed, putting theory into practice throughout the course enabled them to adapt to the entrepreneurial mind set easier and to understand the importance of customer discovery. “Knowing what your customer wants, what they need”, “live and breathe your customer” – these phrases were so commonly used in class that they are still ringing in the ears of the students and influencing them in their decision making.
Some of the feedback and successes shared with the group yesterday included:
o The course provided me with everything I needed to know about starting my own business
o I have the confidence to present myself and my product
o I have registered my Kitchen
o I am now selling my products in 14 stores
o I have gained the knowledge that is required to become a food entrepreneur
o The course was marvellous, the mentors were fantastic and gave us so much of their time
o By applying the knowledge and skills I acquired throughout the course my business has increased by 30% with less customers, I am no longer a “busy fool”
o I realised I had more skills than I thought
o If I had access to a course like this years ago, it would have been a great benefit to me in managing my business
o I have applied for the food academy
Ronan suggested that the class bear in mind “what to do if it is just not happening” and work in groups to discuss the issues that may be hindering business progression and come away with at least one action at the end of the session that each student could enforce immediately. The mentors and the students brainstormed, collaborated and established new connections. There was a great atmosphere in the room – positive, engaging and proactive.
One of the students mentioned two words that have hindered her in becoming an entrepreneur to date – Risk and Fear. Two small, four lettered words that can have such a huge impact on a person – words that frequently cross the mind of an entrepreneur and now for the graduates of this course, words that are not that scary anymore!
The day ended with some great catch ups, some delicious food and an inspiring quote from our Friendly Farmer Ronan Byrne: “what will be is up to me”.
Roll on October to celebrate the official graduation of the first cohort of GMIT’S Certificate in Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship course.