Entrepreneur Training Programs
S4S’s roots are in training. Over the last 10 years we have taught and mentored thousands of businesses across dozens of programs in countries around the world. Programs have been as long as a year, or as short as a day. They have taught as few as 10 entrepreneurs and as many as 1,200. They have focused on STEM companies embedded in research, companies in the creative industries, as well as informal businesses in indigenous communities.
All of our programs have a series of key elements in common:
The focus is on developing and testing business models. S4S developed the methodology called the 10 Questions (White paper here) that is designed to encourage Socratic teaching (White paper here) , and to provide the entrepreneur with a core, transferable skill that will support them as they grow their current business and beyond to future businesses as well.
Entrepreneurs need confidence. Entrepreneurs, especially in developing countries where the culture may be hostile to risk taking, need the confidence to start their business and the aspiration to make it grow. We have found that their fear of risk is reasonable; that if you do not know how to do something, there is good reason to be concerned. Further, their fears do not change if they are merely exhorted to become risk takers. Successful entrepreneurs are not risk takers, they are risk reducers. It follows that, as they learn how businesses work, how models are developed and tested and can see that there is clear evidence-based path to developing a business, their competence grows and confidence follows.
Early stage businesses fail from preventable mistakes. In developing countries the ecosystems are incomplete, thus the IP lawyers, the street-savvy accountants, the experienced mentors, and of course the training, don’t exist. It has been shown that providing a safety net, that entrepreneurs can turn to at the point of making important decisions, can reduce the rate of business failure, by helping them make the early decisions correctly. So programs must provide tactical solutions for the gaps in the ecosystem.
Programs must last long enough for the businesses to discover sustainable business models. A startup, it has been said, is an organization in search of a business model. It is not until that point that they can be set free from the protection of the safety net.
The curricula is localized. Entrepreneurs learn best when they can relate to the examples and case studies used to illustrate a lesson. All of the S4S curricula is localized to take into account the local context.
The curricula is not biased to digital businesses. Many of the popular approaches to teaching derive from Silicon Valley and an emphasis on online businesses. Concepts such as a “minimum viable product”, while useful for a web application has no relevance to someone making handbags.
Beyond our core programs, S4S has created and delivered programs that address specific issues, whether it is getting businesses online, or teaching them their financing options. Finally, S4S has created complete online courses.
For example, The UK government tasked S4S with teaching small firms how to use the web to reach new customers, sell globally, reduce costs, increase productivity, and leverage the web to scale. S4S developed and delivered a nationwide program of bootcamps that reached 30 cities and over 4,600 entrepreneurs.
S4S developed and delivered the largest entrepreneurship training program globally in partnership with the Nigerian Governments and DFID. The program educated, mentored and invested in 1,200 startups and young companies for a year. The program incorporated all of the key principles listed above. The curricula was localized for the Nigerian context and included local examples, case studies and materials.
The training programs S4S has delivered are too numerous to detail. Case Studies can be found below.