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How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

Introduction

Entrepreneurship is where an individual has an idea or sees an opportunity for a new innovative product or service to capture a market share. Simply, it means wanting to start a new business (Entrepreneur Handbook). There is an increasing interest in entrepreneurship, and it is no surprise, as TV shows such as Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice, many famous faces and social media influencers have put the spotlight on this exciting career choice.

As individuals are increasingly interested in entrepreneurship as a career, there has been a surge in students creating their own businesses. In 2021, 847 created companies and 4,093 in 2022 (Startups). There has also been an uptick in students taking GCSE business over the last few years, for example:

  • 2020 – 91,800.
  • 2021 – 95,610.
  • 2022 – 100,990.
  • 2023 – 114,525.

Ofqual 2021 and 2023

Being an entrepreneur can bring many benefits, as they can make a difference in society with their innovative services and products and make a significant salary. They may also employ people, which boosts the job market and contributes hugely to economic growth. According to IW Capital, in the UK, small businesses contribute £1.9trillion annually towards the economy.

GCSE business can help students work towards becoming successful entrepreneurs. Most people have fantastic ideas and innovations but do not know where to start. This blog post will explore how studying GCSE business can equip students with valuable skills and knowledge for real-world entrepreneurship.

How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

The Role of GCSE Business

General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) business is a qualification students typically undertake in key stage 4, i.e. years 10 and 11 of secondary school. It is an optional subject, meaning students must choose this as an option, as it is not compulsory. It is also available to those wanting to study it outside of the school environment.

GCSE business helps students understand the business world and its concepts, practices and principles. It plays a significant role in education as students will learn essential skills to successfully manage a business, such as advertising, finances, operations, marketing and human resources. According to the Department for Education, GCSE business should:

“Enable students to develop as commercially minded and enterprising individuals who think critically, drawing on business information and evidence to develop arguments and make justified decisions.”

It also helps students to develop transferable skills they can use in their life, study and work, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and decision-making.

The course lays the foundation for understanding entrepreneurship, as it provides students with the key principles for starting and running a business and an understanding of an entrepreneur’s role and characteristics. Students will learn about developing new and innovative ideas, finding opportunities, spotting market gaps, business dynamics, organising resources, decision-making, meeting customers’ needs and considering rewards and risks. All of these things are essential to being a successful entrepreneur.

How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

Building a Business Mindset

In the business world, the ability to solve problems is essential. Entrepreneurs can face numerous obstacles and challenges, such as competition, funding, regulation, economic uncertainty, rising costs (e.g. operation and supplier), staff recruitment/retention, customer behaviour, etc. These problems can make it hard to start a business and hinder its success, especially if business planning is poor.

Entrepreneurs also need to think critically, i.e. thinking about something carefully, analysing the information, putting arguments together and making informed and reasoned judgments. Critical thinking can help solve problems, make important decisions and be open to new ideas and perspectives. It involves not accepting information heard or read but questioning it.

GCSE business encourages critical thinking and problem-solving, as the course includes various interactive activities that apply to real-world situations. Students will scrutinise qualitative and quantitative data and examine and analyse actual business case studies and scenarios. They may also participate in group projects, such as role plays and simulations, in a classroom.

In the course, students will also learn to assess opportunities, risks, and challenges in the business world by:

  • Looking at how to spot business opportunities, i.e. through market research, identifying customer needs and understanding competition.
  • Investigating and analysing real business opportunities and challenges.
  • Exploring the impacts of risk and reward on business activity.
  • Considering the risks entrepreneurs face, e.g. financial losses, lack of security and business failure.
  • Understanding how careful planning can minimise the risks.
  • Calculating the risks involved in starting a business against potential rewards, e.g. business success, profit and independence.
How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

Understanding Key Business Concepts

Understanding the meaning of key business concepts can help students think about the big topics within the subject and how everything else relates to them. In GCSE business, the key concepts include marketing, finance, operations, influences on businesses and human resources.

Marketing

Marketing is where businesses promote and sell their services and products and involves various activities, such as advertising and digital marketing. In GCSE business, students will learn why it is important to identify and understand customers and how to target them. It also covers market research, marketing decisions and marketing mix, i.e. product, price, promotion and place.

Finance

Finance is essentially money management and has a vital role within businesses. In GCSE business, students will learn about the role of finance, its purpose and the influences it can have on business activities. They will cover areas like business finance, revenue, cash, profit, loss, forecasting, using information and making business decisions.

Operations

Operations means the activities conducted by a business daily and their role in service provision or goods production. In GCSE business, students will learn about the purpose of business operations, production and sales processes and the role of procurement. They will cover areas such as the impacts of supply and logistical decisions and the importance of quality.

Influences on businesses

Many external influences on business can have positive and negative effects. In GCSE business, students will learn about the importance of external influences and how businesses can change in response. They will cover stakeholders, technology, economic climate, ethical and environmental considerations, globalisation and legislation.

Human resources

Most businesses have a workforce, and this is what human resources manages. In GCSE business, students will learn about the organisational structures within a business and the various job roles and responsibilities. They will cover many areas, such as ways of working and employee recruitment, retention, training, motivation and development.

Every day, entrepreneurs have many tough decisions to make in business, especially when it comes to taking risks and seeking new opportunities. The key concepts covered in GCSE business are fundamental in running and managing a business. What students learn during this course helps them understand how these interdependent business activities underpin entrepreneurial decision-making.

Practical Skills Development

Practical skills are what people use in the workplace to complete their jobs effectively, and they can be divided into hard skills and soft skills.

Hard skills

These directly relate to a specific sector or job role and are acquired through education, training and experience, i.e. technical skills. For example, in GCSE business, students will learn specific business skills, such as:

  • Business planning – they will cover the purpose of business planning, why it is important and what a plan includes. They will also gain an understanding of basic financial terms and calculations.
  • Market research – they will learn about the importance of market research, various methods and choosing the best method for the type of business. They will also cover how to use market research information to make business decisions.
  • Budgeting – they will cover finances, how to complete and interpret cash flow forecasts and analyse the financial performance of a business. These concepts will help them develop budgeting skills, i.e. successful money management.

Students must have good mathematical and quantitative skills, as they will regularly work with numbers and figures, make calculations and use and interpret data.

Soft skills

People develop these general skills over time and apply to many jobs. They are also known as interpersonal skills, are often transferable and can include communication, problem-solving, decision making and collaboration. GCSE business helps foster these skills as students investigate and analyse real business opportunities and issues. They will also use evidence to make informed business decisions and solve business problems.

The skills developed in GCSE business are directly applicable to entrepreneurship, as they are those that entrepreneurs require to be successful. For example, they will need:

  • Business planning skills to set up a business successfully.
  • Budgeting and financial skills to successfully manage a business or brand and make it profitable.
  • Marketing research skills to understand their customers and competitors.
  • Problem-solving skills to ‘put out fires’, adapt to change and find solutions.
  • Decision-making skills to make sound business decisions while considering risks and external influences.
  • Communication and collaboration skills to be good leaders, actively listen and work with others in a team.
How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Case Studies

There have been many successful entrepreneurs in the UK, such as Lord Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson. While some dropped out of school or did unrelated subjects and did very well, others have started their journeys with a strong foundation in business education. Here are some examples:

Deborah Meaden

Best known for being a ‘Dragon’ on the television show Dragons’ Den, Deborah is a British businesswoman who studied at a business college after leaving school. She started her first business at 19 and had many successful leisure and retail businesses. She now has a portfolio of investments. Further information on her journey is here.

Sarah Willingham

Sarah is a British entrepreneur who completed two business degrees in the UK and France after leaving school and was also on Dragons’ Den. She started working in a market and went on to own the largest chain of Indian restaurants in the country. She and her husband run, invest and support several businesses. Further information on Sarah is here.

Stephen Fitzpatrick

Stephen is a billionaire Northern Irish businessman who did a postgraduate degree in finance and business. He launched OVO Energy in 2008 and is also the founder of Vertical Aerospace. He won Entrepreneur of the Year at the National Business Awards in 2014.

Fraser Doherty MBE

Fraser is a Scottish entrepreneur who is the founder of Superjam. He started making 100% fruit jam from his grandmother’s recipes at fourteen years old and sold his jams locally and at farmer’s markets and delicatessens. He met with a supermarket buyer, and the rest is history. He is a self-made millionaire and was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2014. He nominated his school business teacher as influential (The Royal High School Club) and attributes some of his success to the knowledge he gained from accountancy and business lessons (The Royal High School Club Files).

These case studies highlight how GCSE business can lay the foundation for further education in business and lead to successful entrepreneurship.

How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

Nurturing Creativity and Innovation

Creativity is developing imaginative ideas for new or improved products and services and turning them into a reality. It is key to innovation, which is building on existing ideas. GCSE business encourages these traits in students by:

  • Helping them to think outside the box, look at novel ideas and create innovative services and products.
  • Teaching them to look at problems from different angles and develop new ways of doing things.
  • Helping them to develop the skills where they can turn their ideas into reality and also turn mistakes into opportunities.
  • Providing them with real-life examples of where people’s creativity led to innovations.

In a constantly changing landscape and ever-evolving environment, creativity and innovation are qualities that are essential for entrepreneurial ventures as they enable entrepreneurs to:

  • Solve complex problems.
  • Come up with novel ideas.
  • Discover new opportunities.
  • Find their niche.
  • Offer something different to customers.
  • Give them a competitive edge.
  • Drive business growth.
  • Embrace uncertainty.
  • Adapt to change.
  • Take calculated risks.
  • Continuously improve.

Creativity and innovation are also important for economic growth. According to Nesta, the UK’s future competitiveness relies on fostering innovative entrepreneurship.

How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

Preparing for Entrepreneurial Challenges

The business world can be fiercely competitive, and there are numerous challenges and external influences that entrepreneurs can face, such as:

  • Inflation and economic downturn.
  • Fast-paced technological developments and changes.
  • Customer demands.
  • Cybersecurity threats.
  • Staff recruitment and retention.
  • Sustainability.

GCSE Business prepares students to anticipate and navigate these challenges by equipping them with the knowledge and understanding of how to plan for them and the skills and tools to tackle them head-on in the future. They will have real-life case studies and scenarios that detail the numerous challenges faced by various types of businesses so they can develop an understanding of business dynamics and the holistic nature of this environment. It will increase their confidence and empower them to think critically when faced with problems to make informed and good business decisions.

Starting your own business can be exciting. However, entrepreneurs must overcome obstacles to manage a business successfully. Here are some tips for students on applying the knowledge they will learn from GCSE business to overcome obstacles in entrepreneurship:

  • Understand the barriers in entrepreneurship – it is impossible to overcome obstacles if an individual is unaware of what they are. GCSE business will help students identify barriers to achieving success, such as financial constraints and competition, and will help them break them down.
  • Come up with new or improved ideas – one of the most difficult things is figuring out what product or service to sell. By undertaking GCSE business, students will learn how to spot a business opportunity, find their own niche and identify creative and innovative ideas.
  • Learn to plan – having a robust business plan is essential to increasing the chances of a successful business. GCSE business will help students know what to include in a business plan to understand the risks and whether the venture could succeed.
  • Identify the target audience – not understanding the target audience can lead to an unsuccessful business. GCSE business will teach students how to conduct thorough market research to identify their intended customers, their needs and who the competition is.
  • Develop a strong network – having peers, mentors and others to provide valuable insights and advice can be worth its weight in gold, especially when starting. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, which is important when making business connections. GCSE business helps students to learn about the importance of stakeholders and developing relationships with them.
  • Use real-life case studies and scenarios – students will look at some examples of these during their GCSE business course, and they can use this information to identify where others had issues when starting their ventures and what they did to overcome them. They can also expand on this and look at the biographies of successful entrepreneurs and any advice they have. Many made mistakes and had failures, but they learned from them and bounced back.
How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial Opportunities Post-GCSE Business

GCSE business lays a fantastic foundation for student’s future endeavours. After completing their GCSE, there are numerous options, including:

  • Further education – students can choose to continue their education and study in business, for example:
  • After school, they could do anAS Level or A Level in business at sixth form or college. There are also options to do NVQs, BTECs, Cambridge Technical’s, diplomas, certificates and awards in business.
  • After sixth form/college, there are options to do a business-related degree, e.g. business and management studies. They could also do postgraduate qualifications after that.
  • Traineeships – if students are not quite ready to undertake an apprenticeship, they may want to consider a traineeship. It will provide them with the necessary skills and experience for an apprenticeship and prepare them for work. UCAS has further information on traineeships here.
  • Apprenticeships – there are options to do business-related apprenticeships at different levels where individuals are paid while they train, learn and gain experience on the job. Prospects have further information here.
  • Starting a new venture – there are many examples of students starting their businesses after leaving school or during their studies. There are numerous things to consider, such as self-employment and funding. Youth Employment UK has further information on this here, and there is also advice on Shout Out UK.
  • Applying for entrepreneurial roles – some individuals may prefer to start work after their GCSEs, and there may be opportunities to apply for business-related entry-level roles in existing companies, e.g. business administration or marketing. Some employers may also offer internships and work placements.

There is no right or wrong path to develop knowledge and skills in business. Students must choose the one that is right for them and their career and life goals.

How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship

Conclusion

Every year, more and more students are undertaking business at GCSE level, as there is an increasing interest in entrepreneurship and being a part of the business world. GCSE business provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to run and manage a successful business or brand and lays a solid foundation for further education and work.

There are so many reasons to become an entrepreneur. Not only is it an exciting and dynamic role that allows individuals to transform their ideas into reality, but it also helps create jobs and encourages economic growth. Therefore, they can positively affect communities and society, and if they do well, they have unlimited earning potential.

While some very successful entrepreneurs dropped out of school or did subjects other than business, there is no denying that having a good business education gives students the knowledge and skills to increase their chances of success in a highly competitive and dynamic environment. Not having an education in business may put individuals at a disadvantage if they are unaware of the challenges and how to overcome them.

Students should recognise the value of their business education in pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. It will make the difference between knowing where to start and not knowing. Who knows? They could be the next Sir Richard Branson, Deborah Meaden or Fraser Doherty.

How GCSE Business Prepares You for Real-World Entrepreneurship
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