Inspirational course aims to create more new businesses

Training Posted 20/07/20
A unique job creation opportunity that helped nearly 3,000 people develop new business skills in 2019 is now being made available across Kent – for free.

PopUp Business School, which has already proved inspirational for scores of people across Kent, is taking its unique approach online, allowing would-be entrepreneurs and anyone who would like to make money from their hobby to access the course from home.

The five-day business course, which encourages people to use their existing skills to make money by doing something they love, takes a unique ‘no red tape’ approach to the challenge of setting up a new business – with considerable success.

That approach has seen the PopUp team enjoy numerous successes, with people like Faversham’s Joanna Van Blommestein, who now trades as The Bra Boss of Kent, setting up in business after a “life changing” week on a course at Westwood Cross in Thanet.

In 2019 alone, PopUp helped 967 new businesses start up as a result of organising 37 courses across the country – all free, thanks to sponsorship by local support programmes to help new businesses in their area. They range from swimming coaching to cake making and from bookkeeping to fitness training.

Research shows that in 2019, PopUp’s 37 UK events contributed £19.2m to the local economy, including benefits savings of nearly £8m as people turned their hobbies and interests into business ventures.

With the Covid-19 pandemic putting an end to physical gatherings for the foreseeable future, PopUp has now set up a Kent-wide ‘virtual’ course that will follow exactly the same pattern but will be held online for five days from Monday 3 August.

Joanna, who kept costs down by setting up her business in a summer house in her garden, said the advice to “start small, get help from friends and contacts and don’t run up big debts” was spot on.

PopUp’s philosophy is firmly against people borrowing large amounts of money or worrying too much about business plans. “Our courses are aimed at people who dream of making money from something they love,” explained PopUp Business School Chief Operations Officer Henry Nicholson. “We inspire them to have a go and help them develop the skills they need, but we don’t encourage them to get into debt.”

That advice has proved invaluable during the Covid-19 pandemic. “If I had borrowed lots of money to set up, I really would have been struggling to pay my debts by now,” Joanna explained. “Because I set things up simply, I coped with the crisis and now the lockdown is easing I am fully booked for several weeks ahead.”

The online PopUp will run in the same way as the physical events, with sessions on all aspects of business, from sales, social media and networking through to setting up a free website and marketing. “We cover topics like tax and business structure, too, but we leave those until the end of the week because it’s more important to focus on your dream than on the technical issues,” Henry added.

“We will have the same level of engagement via the online platform and we will even be able to set up break out ‘rooms’ for group discussions,” he said. “It will be exactly the same as attending a physical event but without any travel costs or childcare concerns.

“As a society, we’ve had a tremendous challenge over the past few months with our small businesses and communities feeling the brunt of it. Now is the most important time to be helping, supporting and empowering people to keep going and build something incredible.

“If you have ever dreamed of setting up your own business – and we know that Covid-19 has had a big impact on the workforce – then this is the course for you. Bring that dream along and we will show you how to turn it into a business.”

The online event is part of an £8.6m, cross-channel project called Increase Valorisation Sociale (Increase VS), which is using European cash to deliver free workshops aimed at kick-starting small businesses and creating jobs. It is being sponsored by West Kent Housing Association, Orbit Housing, Southern Housing Group, Town & Country Housing, Swale Borough Council, Hyde Housing and Optivo.

To sign up for the virtual course starting on 3 August, visit

Pictured: Joanna shows off her fitting room

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