For students in pupil referral units – a place for those children who struggle with mainstream education – success in a corporate world can be difficult. Perhaps that’s because of lower engagement with studies, or something else, but the effect remains the same: these students struggle to access the world of business.
Set up by Izzie Fernandes, FLAARE was an attempt to bridge a gap. With a background in corporate early talent recruitment, Izzie was used to kids coming into the corporate world from all over the place.
After volunteering with children on a community farm in South London, Izzie realised not all students are quite ready for the world of work by the time they leave school.
After some thought, Izzie came up with the idea of FLAARE – a way to give disadvantaged kids a leg up into the business world. Today, FLAARE CIC is a community creating access to entrepreneurial opportunities for young people from challenging and at-risk backgrounds.
An original, six-week pilot allowed students from a pupil referral unit to spend time in London with independent businesses. They went to workshops, listened to talks and, with the help of these small businesses and their owners, each had the opportunity to put together their own business plan. At the end of the six weeks, FLAARE provided £50 capital and gave the young people the chance to go out and turn that into a profit in their communities.
After the pilot, lifelong best friend Annie McCosker was brought on – both of them passionate about the lives and futures of young people, the two make a formidable duo; and one that will be making a difference for years to come.
“Our skills balance each other out very well in terms of what we both like to do and what we’re good at,” explains Annie.
“One has feet on the ground, one of us has a head in the clouds,” adds Izzie, with a laugh.
Now, the two work together on FLAARE – part community effort, part passion project, FLAARE has given these kids far more than just the chance to turn a profit.
“Every single student that we interviewed said they had a real sense of achievement and that they felt proud of themselves,” says Annie. “One of them said they wanted to go on and take business as a GCSE because of her having done FLAARE, and another said they wanted to carry on their first business from the enterprise.”
While FLAARE helps kids hit educational milestones, including integrating back into mainstream school if that’s what’s right for them, they are taking a new approach to the definition of ‘success’.
“What is success?” challenges Izzie, rightfully. “And can we just assume that everyone’s definition of success has to be a corporate nine-to-five office job? When I ask these young people from pupil referral units, ‘what do you want to do with your future?’, lots of them will be like, ‘I want to have my own business, I want to be a CEO, I’m going to be really rich’. And you’re like, ‘that’s really cool. But how?’
“The reality is, they were not yet ready to be brought into a corporate talent pipeline. But that doesn’t mean that they can never be a part of that. It just means there’s more that we need to do to engage with them.”
And, at FLAARE, engaging with what young people really want, is key. They have discovered that the traditional educational pipeline doesn’t work for everyone – particularly for kids who are already struggling with mainstream education. By working with what these young people are passionate about, and where their interests already lie, Izzie and Annie are helping to build a community of people that will support these kids in figuring out who they are, and where they want to go.
“My main observation was how well the students engaged in the project and their pride in their work… I think FLAARE did a great job in boosting their self-confidence and self-esteem,” reported Mr Ferrigan, a teacher at Haringey Learning Partnership.
Passion and fire
“We’re starting out, but we have a huge amount of passion and fire and time and energy for this,” says Izzie. “It is very much just the beginning and this will fly.”
“I think community is a really important word here,” says Izzie. “Get behind our mission, support young people, and those who are from these like tough backgrounds, those who are at risk. If you’re keen to support and you have skills in fundraising and raising the profile of this as a community through social media, let us know.”
Izzie and Annie are looking for people to get involved – whether that is fundraisers, facilitators and other volunteers, or brands to collaborate with. By getting onboard, you’re helping young people on the road to success – and helping them Find their FLAARE along the way.
If you’re interested in helping Izzie and Annie at FLAARE, you can donate to their GoFundMe, or get in contact via their Linktree, or using Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube.