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Thinking big about starting small;FE Focus

EUROPE'S growing enterprise culture has brought successful self-employment for three former Falkirk College students, despite criticism that the Scottish economy is lagging behind in small business start-ups.

Daniela Sherriff and Denise Gilchrist formed Aurea, a handmade cards and crafts company, while Ewan Murray has set up Emerald, a graphic and Internet design business. Both ventures have gained Prince's Trust and Enterprise Allowance funding.

Murray says: "The college course was a gift out of heaven. It gave me confidence to go into self-employment, helped me assemble a business plan, make contacts throughout Europe and get into the real business world."

Success follows Falkirk's involvement in a "Europrise" pilot project in six countries that won a lifelong learning award. What the students valued most about Europrise was that it reinforced the idea that self-employment was a viable option with the possibility of start-up funding and the support of Falkirk Enterprise and Action Trust (FEAT), and introduced them to how business works in other cultures and languages.

"In terms of actual business start-ups, Europrise has seen the development of two new businesses which is a 200 per cent improvement on anything that went before," Ken Mitchell of Forth Valley Enterprise says.

Europrise participants developed models for establishing junior enterprises based on a senior enterprise, aimed at qualifying young people professionally and practically to start their own businesses. The role of the senior enterprise at the Scottish end, normally an established small or medium business, was originally taken by Falkirk which then handed over to a partnership that included Forth Valley Enterprise, FEAT and the Prince's Trust.

Falkirk recruited the students (of the original 10, seven left to take full-time jobs elsewhere) and provided the education element which included study for a vocational qualification, additional enterprise education (especially with regard to marketing and selling) and help with drawing up a business plan.

A summer school in Nice involved all the Europrise students from Scotland, Norway, Portugal, Ireland, Germany and Sweden.

"The benefits for trainees included the opportunity and support to start their own businesses, a nationally recognised qualification (in Scotland, a three-credit higher national unit), and participation in a high-profile European project," David Maglennon, senior lecturer at Falkirk and local project co-ordinator, says.

Bruce Young of the communication and media department also judges success in terms of the insights gained about business curriculum development.

For Ewan Murray "the gift out of heaven" has seen him set up a business that has expanded into designing Internet magazines and electronic books as well as designing websites, stationery and business cards.

He is also back at college part-time. Now, however, he is teaching on the graphic design course which introduced him to Europrise in the first place.

Business Links, Friday

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