A young entrepreneur who was taunted by her peers has launched a new venture to stamp out bullying in schools.
Leanne Morse, 17, from North Shields, suffered a relentless campaign of mental and physical abuse from fellow pupils over a twelve-year period.
Her health deteriorated, her confidence evaporated and she ended up developing an eating disorder.
But now the Gateshead College student is fighting back by launching a new venture, Bullstop,which aims to educate schoolteachers and pupils on the issues surrounding bullying.
Leanne said: “I am driven to help others and ensure that students get the support that I never received at school. It’s all about breaking down barriers and raising awareness of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in the classroom.
“I don’t want other children to go through the experiences that I had to endure. I was humiliated in front of a whole class, physically beaten up, shoved into walls, had my personal possessions stolen and my homework thrown into the bin.
“Despite my best efforts to report this to the teachers, I felt that I wasn’t taken seriously and it really knocked my self-confidence.”
Gateshead College gave Leanne the opportunity to promote her business idea via a series of workshops in which she talked about her experiences and offered suggestions on how to beat bullying.
She secured £1,250 from UnLtd through the FE Pioneers programme, a business support scheme that helps new businesses to get off the ground. UnLtd works with Gateshead College to provide funding for social enterprises, a type of start-up that tackles social problems and makes positive improvements in the local community. Leanne’s venture falls into that category and she is hoping it will reduce occurrences of classroom bullying.
Almost half (46%) of children and young people said they had been bullied at school at some point in their lives, according to the NSPCC, while18% who were worried about bullying said they would not talk to their parents about it.
Leanne is currently studying for a Level 3 qualification in music production at Gateshead College and is hoping to gain further recognised qualifications that will help her make the business a success.
Her venture is one of 27 start-ups – including 12 social enterprises – that have been created at Gateshead College in the last twelve months. Others include an in-house magazine, Northern Stars, launched by Level 3 Commercial Radio student Rebecca Buckman. Seventeen year-old IT student Mitch Robinson is the driving force behind Mitch Monkey Distributions, which sells DVDs, CDs and consoles at discount prices, while Luke Farrell, also 17, is gearing up to launch a new venture selling mobile apps to students.
The new start-ups are part of a wider drive by Gateshead College to promote enterprise in education through Northern Stars, its student enterprise society, which gives students the opportunity to trial their entrepreneurial ideas and gain support from established business mentors. It also aims to help college tutors build enterprise into their teaching and inspire students to become more confident in front of employers.
Shelley Raine, entrepreneurial activity co-ordinator at Gateshead College, said: “Through Northern Stars we are trying to give students the skills and confidence to launch their own venture or gain meaningful employment within an established business.
“It’s all about equipping students with specific skills, confidence and an entrepreneurial mindset before they get into the workplace. That way, they can get a head-start on their peers in what is still a competitive market, both in terms of finding a job or starting a business.
“This year several of our students have gone on to launch their own business and through Northern Stars we hope that many others will follow suit.”
Gateshead College is one of the founder colleges of the Gazelle Colleges Group, a network of UK colleges which is committed to fostering entrepreneurialism in the sector. For further information on how you can work with Gateshead College to support young entrepreneurs contact Shelley Raine by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.