How Ultra Education and Julian Hall are teaching children the value of entrepreneurship



Over the last year, the increased time spent at home has spurred a rise in startups; but, for some, entrepreneurship forms part of a grander, more deliberate scheme to address major social challenges. This is the case for Julian Hall and Ultra Education, who are on a mission to break open the barriers to youth entrepreneurship.

The importance of youth entrepreneurship

Ultra Education was founded by Julian five years ago. It works to teach youth the value of entrepreneurship primarily through events and workshops. This hits on one of the organisations' core aims which is helping youth pursue the causes they love and creating pathways for them to monetize their passions, hence their much-vaunted #DoWhatYouLove hashtag.

According to their website, in the last year alone they have reached 2,000 young people aged 7 to 21 and assisted in the launch of over 200 child businesses and startups.

Ultra maintain relationships with the youth they welcome onto their programmes, allowing them to not only facilitate but guide success thereon. Among those to have emerged under their tutelage include 13-year-old Omari Mcqueen, founder of Dipalicious, ‘the crafting queenStella Businge and Ranveer Sandhu once ‘Britain’s youngest accountant’.

Julian Hall explained:

Entrepreneurship is a practical sport. We encourage kids to take their passion, do what they love and make money for it. What that does is give them the skills and the confidence that they can give back to the world and monetize their passions. This is their starting a sustainable car company, becoming a graphic designer, a chef or a YouTuber."

It takes a village

In April, the Ultra Education launched 'It Takes a Village' in partnership with Brent Council. The initiative will see Ultra target as many 100 parents, 38 schools, and community organisations to boost the confidence, academic attainment and life skills of boys of Caribbean heritage in the borough. Improving educational attainment is at the heart of the initiative. Julian believes that enlisting community support is vital to reverse what he observes to be a decade-long trend of underachievement.

When I spoke to Julian about the strategy for the initiative, he stated: 

In order for them [local authorities] to think about how they could transform the lives of any child, we should use the proverb of it takes a village. Children don’t just exist in schools, they exist in the community and at home, so our work would support teachers, parents and we work with other community organisations to support black children."

As he further explained, by encouraging a practical and holistic approach to learning, entrepreneurship can form part of the solution. He added:

They go hand in hand. Any entrepreneur will tell you they have knowingly or unknowingly subscribed to a life of learning. To be successful in business, you’re always learning new skills and developing yourself and others around you. For us, it’s about making education relevant. With entrepreneurship, we can show kids how English, how Maths, how Science and Geography are all relevant because we can get them to apply these things to their businesses. In doing so, it engages them back into learning, be that in school or outside of it."

Brent council had previously launched the Black Caribbean Champions (BCA) programme in 2018. This initially encountered issues amid complaints of a lack of commitment on the part of certain head teachers. However, the most recent report shows significant closure in attainment gaps for the summer of 2019.

Inquisitive spirits lead the way

Ultra Education have ambitions to put youth entrepreneurship on the national agenda. In spite of the pandemic, the team behind the scenes doubled in size, with Julian noting that the past year has seen “an even greater mood” for their work. The team is looking to grow their national footprint in the next five to seven years, and Julian hinted they may turn to franchising in order to expand their presence. Despite this, he remains sure that the most important factor to drive youth entrepreneurship doesn’t actually involve them.

“How could the average man help with the aims of Ultra? We don’t want them to help us; we want to help them. How can they at least support? Be inquisitive and find your child's passions. Ask your kids what they want to be. Would they like to run their own business? Do they have an idea for a project now that will help the community? I guarantee you they will find young people with these ideas, but nine times out of ten won’t have the support they need to develop them. This has been our experience over the last years. People say their child or nephew has a plan but they don’t know where to start. If we help them, that child’s success travels, that child’s life is then enriched, that child now has a positive effect on their community, school and that then helps us." 

He explained that the work of Ultra goes further than the mantra of ‘you can’t be it until you see it’ because what Ultra is doing is helping to spark the individual passion internally. He emphasises that ‘seeing it to believe it' is a fact which cannot be ignored, but from its projected aims to its roots this is an endeavour driven by self-betterment and ownership.

For Julian, the success of the Ultra is made sweeter by the obstacles the Social Enterprise has had to overcome. It is an added motivation along his transformative entrepreneurial journey.

“I explained to one of my mentees that every time you see us win something we've taken five losses. Every time you see us win a contract we’ve been lost five before. If we’ve won an award it’s after being turned down for 10 of them. When people talk about resilience that’s resilience, and then the question becomes why? Because I truly believe in what I’m doing.”

Mayowa Ayodele


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