Often, it can be the more vulnerable people in our communities who have the most difficulty finding ways to be self-sustaining. Here, Terenure Enterprise Centre enterprise support officer Vasilena Vasileva explains what they did with Walk to change that.

Last summer, Terenure Enterprise Centre ran a training course – Destination Innovation – for young entrepreneurs. It gave participants a sense that they can be their own bosses and create their own jobs. It was a revelation for some of them.

We hope to replicate the course later this year.

The project was started after we were approached by the Walkinstown Association for People with an Intellectual Disability (Walk).

Walk’s team of employment staff knew that young people with disabilities have difficulties finding paid and meaningful employment, and the labour market in Ireland is all but closed to individuals with intellectual disabilities. When it came to such bright and brilliant individuals, the association felt that supporting them in creating their own businesses could be a solution to the issue.

We then designed a hands-on entrepreneurial training course to meet the needs of the group of young people in an accessible way.

The course was a success because we were very flexible in our approach and did things with the participants that they were passionate about. We were following their lead.

How did it work?

Five young people took part and the training took place over four sessions, each lasting two hours. The participants drew on their talents, passions and skills to develop a variety of business ideas. They proposed a handmade jewellery business and an artwork business, as well as working as a band manager, a DJ and a beautician.

Each training session was filled with practical activities and tailored to the needs of the learners, as each of them was at a different stage of creating their products or services. Some participants were already testing their ideas, while others were building a body of work or refining their skills to start their business.

The students had a chance to discuss their business ideas and decide what resources they needed to make it a reality. One of them (the DJ) turned the work he was doing voluntarily into paid work.

The course also focused on future clients, making themselves and their businesses visible online and offline, and improving their digital skills. All participants felt the course was a valuable experience.

The project finished with a showcase event in October – organised by Walk – where the young entrepreneurs presented their businesses and won over new clients.

The course was free for participants and was funded through Getting Citizens Online.

For more information on the course, and to find out how you can replicate it in your local community, contact Vasilena Vasileva at Terenure Enterprise Centre.

Interested in reading more about the state of Ireland’s community development sector? Check out our latest issue