Ultra Education. Turning Kids Into Entrepreneurs.
Recently, we discovered Ultra Education, an after school club that teaches entrepreneurial skills to kids. At Growth Rocket, we loved the idea and decided to do some more research, and what we discovered was surprising. What we'd thought of as an "after school club" turned out to be something more, much more in fact.
Ultra Education teaches a variety of skills to children and youths from as young as 7 via after school and weekend workshops at 40 different schools. Holding quarterly business fairs sponsored by the likes of Tesla and Microsoft, Ultra Education has become the UK's leading provider of entrepreneurial education.
At Growth Rocket, we love the idea that Ultra's first step is emphasising the importance of finding something that the kids love to do before getting on to the business planning stages, something that's often overlooked when children are first taught about self employment.
Ultra's founder, Julian Hall, has a long history of entrepreneurism, from starting his first business at 18 in a one bedroom flat to becoming the best selling author of three books. Julian has advised the department for education, appeared in dozens of media features and co-written several degrees in Entrepreneurship. On top of all his accolades, Julian is a genuinely nice guy. From our conversation it was obvious that he really cares about his education programme and the kids that are part of it. When we contacted Julian for an interview, nothing was too much trouble and he was only too happy to help. Top guy!
Can you describe Ultra Education in one sentence?
Teaching young people how to start a business doing what the they love, enabling them to build character and gain life and employability skills.
At Growth Rocket, we love the idea of teaching young people entrepreneurial skills. How did you come up with the idea for Ultra Education?
While working with schools, youth organisation and start-up mentoring programs I realised that a majority of young people leaving school were ill prepared for the world of work. The school system simply didn’t prepare them, and many talented young people, in disadvantaged areas or in social care, had been disaffected or even excluded by the system.
We focussed on their passions and aspirations and developed a program which we found had a remarkably positive effect on their life chances. We then realised that the earlier we engaged young people, the greater the long term impact.
Reaching children as young as 8 we also discovered how aware they are of famous business people and the concept of entrepreneurism. They weren’t aware they could start their own business and only needed some guidance to do so.
How has Ultra Education grown since you founded it?
We have reached over 10,000 young people through over 40 schools, several local councils and many youth organisations and have directly worked with hundreds through after school and weekend workshops.
We're excited to see that Ultra Education is now growing throughout the country via franchising. Can you tell us how you've been successful in achieving your growth?
We have a light touch franchise program providing part time income for educators and workers helping young people in London and Birmingham. This is a steady growth model but will take time to scale across the country. We are looking at other models to scale including an online version which also complements the face to face programs.
Your website and social media feature testimonials from students, and student's parents and teachers. What do you think are the key steps to building a supportive community around your business?
Delivering a positive experience for young people and their parents is vital to building a supportive community. The community will be an advocate for a good experience. Our Whatsapp group of hundreds of parents is a growing peer support group and a great enabler for our parents. Our quarterly business fairs bring our young entrepreneurs and their family and friends together to meet other young entrepreneurs. These are sponsored by businesses such as Tesla and PWC. The next fair in London in December will be sponsored by Microsoft.
What have been the biggest challenges you've had to overcome in growing Ultra Education?
The nature of a social impact business means many unpaid volunteers and people who want to support in various ways are involved. Managing a consistent program has taken a lot of work.
As with many social impact led organisations, our mission to reach the most disadvantaged youths who need other sponsors and organisations to access the program, has meant that maintaining profitability is a challenge. We have worked through these challenges and have built scalable relationships with our partners are now operating in profit and have a platform to properly scale the business.
What do you think is the most important entrepreneurial skill that young people should learn?
Resilience. The ability to fail, assess and try again is fundamental to the entrepreneurial experience and is an important character trait to develop. We have young entrepreneurs who have been through multiple businesses before finding a successful model. They now treat this as a part of the process.
Watching children develop is a very rewarding job. Can you tell us about some of the businesses that your students have started?
Sure, here are a just a few....
Name Alex Philips
1 liner about his business Drop shipping using instagram influencers
What their plans are for the future Grow his drop shipping business
Name Omari McQueen
1 liner about his business Multi award winning vegan dip business
What their plans are for the future Get his vegan dip into the supermarkets
Name Jasmine Redman
1 liner about her business Hand drawn colouring book for adults and kids
What their plans are for the future Increase sales globally and productise her artwork in the colouring book
What's been the best your proudest achievement since starting Ultra Education?
Recently a parent said “You have no idea how positively impactful Ultra has been on my daughter. It’s changed her life, Ultra is the BEST!”
I get feedback like this from parents all the time and each one is a proud moment because I know that the basic concept I had just a few years back is making a dent in the universe.
What are your plans for the future of Ultra Education?
We are scaling nationally and are creating an app version of the program to complement the face to face program and reach millions of young people who don’t have access.
Finally, do you have an entrepreneur that you find particularly inspiring?
Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba who has a very holistic view of business and entrepreneurship and the future of technology. He has a great way of making sense of our current time and how business and entrepreneurship is today and how children should be allowed to fail to learn.