Alan Donegan, co-founder of Enjoy Training, which now trades as the Rebel Business School, says the Queen’s Award is a major vindication after many years of hard work
If you had seen us ten years ago when we were running our first event, I don’t think you would have said we looked like Queen’s Award winners. My co-founder Simon Paine and I were in a disused woodworking shop in Weston-super-Mare, teaching a group of mostly unemployed people about how to start a business. Many of them didn’t want to be there and had been sent by the Jobcentre. It wasn’t glamorous, but I was loving it. And, by the end of the first day, they were, too.
Alan Donegan of Rebel Business School
We’re on a mission to change the way entrepreneurship is taught around the world. Our business school is free to attend and paid for by sponsors. Most business schools present you with a bill at the end of the course. We aim to make attendees wealthier while the course is still running, by encouraging people to sell.
Many of the people who come to our events don’t think they can do it. Quite a lot are unemployed, lacking in confidence, speak English as a second language or are in receipt of benefits - they don’t exactly look like world beaters.
We show them they can do it. We empower them, boost their confidence and tackle negative beliefs. Many people think you need money and a business plan to start up, we show that this is untrue. We show how to find a customer, how to sell and how to do things on a shoestring budget. We also instil confidence in people. Many attendees actually make their first sales while they are on the course.
Winning a Queen’s Award for ‘promoting opportunity’ feels like a massive justification for what we’ve been doing for the past decade. We’ve seen the change take place in many people who attended our courses. They walk in thinking: ‘I can’t do this.' They walk out saying: ‘I just have.'
A reward after a very hard year
Before the pandemic, we were running in-person events with over a hundred people in the room. The pandemic hit us very hard, we were forced to cancel events and we lost six figures worth of business overnight.
The company we founded, Enjoy Training, had traded as the PopUp Business School for many years. However, Covid-19 meant we couldn’t exactly ‘pop-up’ anymore. So, we’ve moved everything online, rebranded the business, changed our business model and now we are the Rebel Business School. It’s been a tumultuous year. There were times when I wondered if we’d survive. But there have been good times, too.
During the pandemic, we were thinking “How can we help more people?” Financial times had got bad, people were losing their jobs and we wanted to inspire them to make their own business. So, in the middle of all this, we launched a podcast that, in its first year, had 150,000 downloads: The 'Rebel Entrepreneur'.
Now, we’ve won the biggest award in business. I think the moral of this tale is to ‘keep going’.
Clients and partners
Our events are free because they are sponsored by major local councils across the country such as Westminster, Camden and Barnet councils in London, Oxfordshire Council in the Midlands, Southampton Council in the South and Bolton and Newcastle councils in the North. We are also backed by housing associations such as Bolton at Home, Red Kite Community Housing and Optivo. People at these organisations took a bet on us and winning the Queen’s Award will show them they were right to do so.
Rebel Business School is also active in six other countries and the Queen’s Award emblem will be a major bonus, as Her Majesty is so well known and respected across the world. There’s no doubt about it - this will help cement existing relationships and help us to build new ones.
About the author
Alan Donegan is co-founder of Enjoy Training, which trades as the Rebel Business School. Rebel helps people from all walks of life to start their own businesses. Rebel's mission is to change the way entrepreneurship is taught across the world. The company has educated over 11,000 people in seven different countries through free events and helped launch 805 businesses in 2020 alone.
Find out more about the Rebel Business School here: https://therebelschool.com/
You can listen to the Rebel Entrepreneur podcast at: https://www.alandonegan.com/podcast.html
Visit The Queen's Awards website to apply today: https://www.gov.uk/queens-awards-for-enterprise