We know what it’s like to be a startup; we were one, so supporting young entrepreneurs is a matter close to Xero’s heart. That’s why we launched the first Xero Entrepreneur Scholarship in November, 2015 designed to help UK students afford the rising cost of education and help them along the road to success on their entrepreneurial journey. As part of the offering we decided to offer £2,000 financial backing, with the additional support of mentoring, practical financial management skills coaching and a subscription to Xero for 12 months to an undergraduate or postgraduate student.
This year we received significantly more applicants than ever before. Whilst every application was of high calibre one person in particular stood out to us.
Sharon Kenwrick impressed us with her dedicated pursuit of her dream and her passion to help others. Sharon is currently studying a masters in creative writing at Birmingham University, having done her undergraduate at Coventry University.
Her application described her pursuing her master’s degree despite a socio-economically deprived background and her profound desire to help others through her self help poetry children’s book Poetry Pathway.
“Receiving the Xero scholarship has helped immeasurably with my own self confidence and my confidence in the idea. Vitally, it also means I will be able to pay for the master’s tuition, so that I can realise my dream of Poetry Pathway. The scholarship is beyond anything I could ever have imagined.”
We hope that the interview below inspires other students to follow their dreams and also encourages them to apply for Xero’s Entrepreneur Scholarship 2018.
Can you tell us about your business idea and how you came up with the concept?
Originally I came up with the idea because I wrote a poem for a family member who had experienced a bereavement. When I sent the poem to them the feedback I got was really positive and they said that it really changed their outlook.
Since then I’ve been writing and illustrating a self help poetry book called Poetry Pathway which also doubles as a counselling resource. It addresses common events and emotions such as loneliness, bereavement and isolation. The poems use metaphorical devices, child-friendly themes, and characters that children can relate with. Additionally I’ve made sure that every single poem falls in line with NHS counselling theory.
What do you think makes your work special?
I think that what makes my work unique is that many of the poems focus on the topic of social inclusion. Zane the Zebu is the character closest to my heart and his particular focus is on social inclusion. I think that this is a really poignant topic in the UK right now because of the cultural and racial diversity. Social inclusion isn’t discussed enough in children’s literature and if it is I think it tends to be a PC box ticking exercise. I think it would be an invaluable lesson to be taught to children at an early age especially if it could prevent bullying. Currently there’s a really negative narrative in the UK surrounding immigration due to Brexit. I really hope that my work can generate positivity and most importantly reassure children who may feel socially excluded that they are valuable.
Sharon’s delightful personality is reflected in poems that are fun, compassionate and unique. Below is an excerpt from Zane the Zebu with accompanying illustrations.
In a dark, and lonely corner,
At the bottom of the zoo.
In crumbled, slummy stable,
Lies a hopeless, sad Zebu.
He’s sombre and he’s moody,
And he’s got the grumpy hump!
Basking in unhappiness,
He lies there, in a slump.
His name is Zane the Zebu,
He’s gloomy and he’s grim.
Hes wistful, because nobody,
Has ever heard of him.
His parents were from Asia,
From the zoo, that’s far away!
Because he’s unfamiliar,
He’s seen to some as stray.
Well, no one’s ever taken time,
To learn what he’s about.
And so, the queues to see zebus,
Are often, just left out
No-one cares to cheer for Zane,
He’s lonely as can be.
There are no stories for himself,
Just Zoogle search and see!
With droopy ears and horns that spike,
He looks just like a yak.
Brawny, bulky, big and burly,
With a hump upon his back.
Now you know him, please remember,
Zebu in your head.
Remember also, that not only,
Zebra starts with zed.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur and which entrepreneurs inspire you and why?
I’ve always wanted to create a business of my own. Creativity is something that drives me and I see that as the basis of any business model. Having the opportunity to be able to personally shape my own brand and business I feel is really empowering. However, what I’ve always hoped to do is create a business model that aids social mobility and equality. I really really think that this book can do that.
Roald Dahl is one of my entrepreneurial inspirations. One of the things that is very poignant in my books is the importance of education and social mobility and children believing in themselves. I think Roald Dahl has had a particular influence on this. His legacy of fostering children’s imagination as well as empowering them to believe in themselves is something I find very admirable. One of my favourite quotes from Matilda is “I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it”. I would like just as Roald Dahl did to teach children the exact opposite.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
What I would really hope is that in 10 years time Poetry Pathway is a success. I really hope after launching and publishing Poetry Pathway the brand snowballs into something more comprehensive. I think that there’s potential for the resource to be transferred and accessed online, even perhaps through moving image. If Poetry Pathway or it’s characters and stories were to earn notoriety I think that their merchandise could also be used as therapeutic devices. But mostly my dream for Poetry Pathway would be to have collaborators and co-authors on board. I think that would be able to really ensure that we could reach as many children as possible.
How will the Xero scholarship help you?
Firstly it has helped immeasurably with own self confidence and my confidence in the idea. It will also give me the opportunity to complete my masters degree in creative writing. Through my masters I hope to better understand the publishing field and maybe amend my work with taught theory. The business tuition will help me enormously because going forward I’d really like to see Poetry Pathway as a brand that encourages counselling through literature. I think that the market exists there for schools, local authority agents and parents. I could really benefit from some expert advice on expanding my brand and marketing this book so that it can reach a wide audience.
Finally what are your tips and advice for students looking to start their entrepreneurial journey during their studies?
My biggest advice is to absolutely do something you are passionate about, that you believe in and something that drives you. If you really believe in your entrepreneurial dream then that’s the ultimate determination to get it off the ground.