Queen’s Award winner: “The pandemic made us scaleable, now we can reach everyone.”

The Rebel Business School has gained Royal recognition for its work helping people from all walks of life start up. It came close to disaster in 2020 when all events were locked down, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise

An organisation which has helped thousands of people start up businesses has officially received a Queen’s Award for Promoting Opportunity.

The hugely popular Rebel Business School was presented with the prestigious award by Roxane Zand, the Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Camden, at a ceremony in the capital on Thursday November 25.

Rebel Business School was set up by Alan Donegan and Simon Paine in 2010 and has helped over 13,000 people start businesses through courses and training. It has helped many more through online resources, social media and its podcast The Rebel Entrepreneur.

The company’s first event was at a disused factory in Weston Supermare in front of 40 people. Now, as experts in inclusive enterprise the Rebel Business School attracts hundreds to its free courses which are sponsored by major UK councils, housing associations and government departments.

In an emotional speech, Simon Paine recounted how the business’ entire future was threatened during the pandemic.

“I can’t tell you how tough it was for us when six figures’ worth of business disappeared in two hours on the day before the first lockdown. The fact that we are stood here now is phenomenal,” he said.

Lockdown meant the business could no longer run its live events. Previously, it had filled halls with people eager to learn how to set up and run businesses.

But rather than accept defeat, Paine engaged with audiences online and via social media. He re-invented the business model, moving from in-person events to Zoom powered online courses, where there was no limit on the numbers that could attend.

“We had to rethink everything and, as a result, we became better,” explains Paine.

“The pandemic made us scaleable. There’s no limit to how many people can attend, location and travel are not issues. Now we can reach everyone and being accessible and inclusive is at the heart of what we do.”

Paine is urging policy makers and leaders to rethink how business is taught and points out that traditional methods fail to connect with most audiences and could end up putting people off.

“Business advice shouldn’t be about telling people to write business plans, take on debt or raise capital – this is entirely the wrong message for most people.

“We teach people how to start businesses for free or next to nothing, which is key for someone who doesn’t have much money or security.

“We don’t focus on the viability of a business idea, but on the people running the businesses. We work on their confidence and encourage them to speak to potential customers, run mini experiments and market their business on a shoestring.

“We really hope the Queen’s Award win will bring us to the attention of more people who we can inspire, upskill and support.”

You can watch a video of the ceremony at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AmWxmjar6A&t=279s

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