How my business secured a government contract

It took almost five years for Carly Ward to win a government contract for her enterprise education companies and get backing from the industry – here she explains how she did it and how you can too…

Name: Carly Ward
Companies: Young Entrepreneur Society (YES) Education and The Entrepreneurial Education Group (TEEG)
Started in: 2009
Company description: YES Education and TEEG provide entrepreneurial/enterprise education resources, support and opportunities for students and teachers.

Describe your start-up barrier

The education sector is probably one of the toughest markets to work in. It took more than three years for us to get the government and educational leaders to buy into what we do – enterprise education. We then went on after nearly five years to win a government contract to deliver an ‘Enterprising Teachers’ training course which is now being rolled out to all further education colleges and members of our group TEEG. Getting to know how the minds in our market work and a lot of persistence, passion and determination has now finally started to pay off.

What steps did you take to secure a government contract for your business?

We nearly gave up but we carried on through sheer passion and belief that students have got to have ‘real life’ experiences and be taught entrepreneurial skills along with learning the different options out there available to them such as self-employment. I wasn’t taught these skills when I was at college and it resulted in me becoming unemployed at the end of my course.

In January 2014 we had our break through moment. OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Exam Board) bought into our ideas and became a founding partner of TEEG. Their knowledge and contacts in the education sector have enhanced our offering and given TEEG massive credibility. Our entrepreneurship knowledge alongside this gives us the recipe for success – entrepreneurs + educators = quality enterprise education.

We launched TEEG in parliament in January 2014 and government sat up and listened and started to take us seriously. We’ve borrowed about £60,000 to get the business to where it is today.

Partnering with OCR has been the driving force behind creating TEEG. The opportunities it’s bringing to our business are endless. We make more sales, we are taken seriously and given the respect we deserve from people in high places, we are able to get expert advice, input and support from a highly respected leading organisation in the education sector and get the results we need.

What three key questions should other entrepreneurs ask themselves before trying to win a government contract?

Every company has challenges, it’s part of living in the ‘entrepreneur world’. We made the decision to partner with another organisation that could help us achieve our goals but also gain themselves from this too.

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Businesses should ask themselves:

  1. Where do I want my business to be in three years’ time?
  2. What are the short term and long term goals and how can I put a strategic plan in place to achieve them?
  3. Who can I partner with in my industry to enhance my offering and how can that organisation also gain from getting involved?

What one piece of advice do you think entrepreneurs should take on board?

Try and stay calm and seek advice from a mentor. Try and relate decisions you make to your target market, your existing customers and potential customers.

If your market knowledge and research proves there is a need for what you’re doing but you are struggling to achieve what you set out to do or have a challenge, stick with it. Write everything down on a piece of paper like we did and put an action plan together. Create with no restrictions what you need in an ideal world and then set goals and put together a strategic plan. In our case partnering with another organisation helped us but what do you need?

It’s easier said than done but if it was easy, as they say, then everyone would be doing it. If you know it can work and people, and the government, could be willing to buy into it then anything is possible. Building a network, working hard, persistence, planning then execution are key.

Is there anything you would do differently?

Instead of jumping into the business so soon, I think I could have got a job in the beginning to relieve financial strain but, saying that, I wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time on the business. Everything has its advantages and disadvantages.

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