City lawyer launches ‘Kids MBA’ to give students greater chance of business success


A city lawyer who specialises in company and insolvency law has launched a project aiming to give teenagers vital business skills that will increase their life chances.

Mark Watson-Gandy, who is also visiting professor at the University of Westminster, has created the ‘Kids MBA’ after he noticed the majority of business failures he dealt with were due to reasons that could have easily been avoided.

The Kids MBA is a 10-hour intensive course for 12-15 year olds and has been designed by a team of leading academics, professionals and business people to provide business education that is not on the UK school curriculum.  It covers topics such as business plans, book-keeping, marketing and customer care. 

Mark said:

“The ideas for many of the businesses that come across my desk are strong.  What leads to their downfall is the lack of business knowledge, the core skills that are essential to success. 

“This kind of business education doesn’t exist in schools.  Business owners have to learn by trial and error.  What we want to do with the Kids MBA is to give young people the skills - the ‘unsexy’ skills - they need to understand the principles of business and what they can achieve. 

“The idea of a career for life in a large company has gone.  Business knowledge is now the source of young people’s economic independence.  Not every child’s future lies in being a salaried employee but, even those that do, will gain from a better understanding of what matters for their employers.”

In its most recent Workforce Survey, the British Chambers of Commerce found that 88% of businesses felt school leavers weren’t prepared for the world of work and more than half attributed this to a lack of focus in schools on the skills needed such as communication and resilience. 

St Columba’s Catholic Boys School in Bexleyheath was the first to sign up to the ‘Kids MBA’ classes designed to offer them a taster of the mind-set, skills and know-how that they will need to start a business or become self-employed.

Paul McGonnell, assistant headteacher at St Columba’s, said:

“It was very exciting to bring this opportunity to our students.  Business studies isn’t an attractive option for many pupils but this course gives them a good introduction to skills that will stand them in good stead whatever career path they choose.   It works for us as a school because we can fit it into the timetable and it works for the students because it’s short, focused and is practical and engaging."

The Kids MBA course consists of ten 45 minute sessions and includes traditional lecturing, games and role play.  The sessions at St Columba’s have been led by Professor Joseph Tanega, a reader in international financial law at the Westminster Law School and a member of the expert board at Kids MBA, he said:

“We ran the Kids MBA course over two days and it has exceeded my expectations, the way the children have responded has been amazing.  We have presumptions about 13 year olds - but they’ve been totally engaged and have thrown themselves into the role play exercises. 

“The format allows them to use their imagination and it’s completely participatory, they’re not passively learning.  Some students don’t have English as their first language but the practical nature of what we’ve been doing has meant they are engaged and can understand the concepts we’re dealing with.  Out of 17 students, at least seven of them already have business ideas.”

Making the course accessible internationally is one of the aims of Kids MBA. 

A recent report by the World Bank found that one of the key interventions to combat poverty and encourage gender equality is through promoting business skills and know-how.