Changes are inevitable, flexibility is optional: Blog 2.

posted in: Mindset | 0

This is the second blog about flexibility – the first one is HERE – and how we have a choice about being flexible or not. Sometimes we are forced to be flexible and sometimes opportunities come your way which need flexibility OR you lose the chance of something great.

A story.

After I started Innovative Enterprise in 2006 I was working in schools across the UK and sometimes drove and sometimes got the train. What was clear, was that there was one of me and I needed extra resources / tools to offer schools and share the ideas I had more widely. I had hear about a science group who were demonstrating soap making in schools where two scientists would do the ‘cold-process’ soapmaking experiment in a fume cupboard with the ingredients potentially taking between 5 and 55 minutes of stirring to react fully. It sounded worthwhile, but honestly, not much fun to watch someone else stirring some liquid in a cupboard.

This was when I started to immerse myself in how this STEM workshop could be improved and made into a product. Using the knowledge I’d got from three years at Unilever’s Port Sunlight soap factory and in the Persil and Domestos plants, I wanted to put my nerdy soap knowledge to good use.

Enterprise Soapbox was born in 2007 after a summer of 5 am starts, writing furiously and creating a four-section handbook about Enterprise, STEM, Environment and DT uses for the kit. The kit includes enough materials for students to SAFELY make hundreds of novelty soaps, advice on branding and marketing, certificates to allow the soaps to be sold and 70+ ideas for lessons and workshops. The kits were ready and after a marketing campaign they started to sell well…we had a few production sessions for major clients in Blackpool and Croydon and one school in Kent bought 7 full kits. Things were great.

Then in Summer 2008 the school in Kent emailed and said “can you help please? We have 200 Year 10 girls off timetable in two weeks and we want to use the Enterprise Soapbox kits we have purchased but we don’t know where to start…”

[ Until this point we never envisaged the Enterprise Soapbox (ESB) kits being used as a workshop – or by us! So we got to planning quickly and sytrategically…how would we do this?]

Without it fully worked out, we said “YES” and started buying microwave ovens, plastic boxes, moulds, jugs, spatulas, packaging…etc etc and the Enterprise Soapbox workshop was born. Completely by chance and in a bit of a rush…and it was a success. The second day we delivered at Kent was better than the first and we incrementally improved the preparation and delivery, logistics and support each time.

Now, 13 years on, Enterprise Soapbox is still our most popular workshop and it’s also our most flexible which is completely understandable as it was born as a workshop from a cry for help added to some open-thinking.

A few of the ways Enterprise Soapbox has been delivered – all featuring people planning, manufacturing and branding their own real soap products:

  • With 1,200 students in one day at Duston School to celebrate the joint specialist status of STEM and Enterprise College, judged by one of the founders of Lush;
  • With 350 Year 10s in 12 rooms with a final presentation theatre in front of all the year group and local business people (7 years on the run);
  • For a nursery school in Blackpool;
  • As an activity for a Society for Blind People;
  • At special schools in South Wales, Salford and Rochdale;
  • As a project for Alternative Provision students in Buckinghamshire;
  • As business and creative development activities for businesses in London, Lincoln and Preston;
  • As a way of developing creative and marketing skills at Universities in Manchester, London and Southampton;
  • Teamwork and income: for charities through a session for TNT in Antwerp.

Enterprise Soapbox Workshops have also supported dozens of young people working alongside us to deliver sessions in schools – thereby increasing the skills and employability of young people as they deliver with us AS WELL as the young people who are part of the workshop themselves.

So, flexibility IS going out of your way for other people, and it is also going a different way which can benefit you and future clients, your staff teams and your thinking.  When I think of the ways Enterprise Soapbox has changed young peoples’ views and approaches to employment and entrepreneurship, their skills in teamwork and the fun we’ve supported in schools across the UK, I’m so pleased I took the chance to be flexible and started the workshops.

You never know what saying ‘yes’ can do for yourself or your organisation.


PS: If you think our flexible workshops can help you, your clients or your students then they probably can. Why not get in touch with me?