Supplying promotional products and branded clothing to customers can have some unexpected outcomes, as Recognition Express Mid Surrey owner Sally Findlay found out. She had been commissioned by Kingston University to supply all of the branded items for its Beyond Barriers mentoring scheme, and when Sally learned more about it she volunteered to take part.

Enterprising Women in Franchising (EWIF) franchisee of the Year Sally has spent the past six months mentoring 22 year old space engineering student Karine Murray.
She committed several hours a month to the scheme which has been designed to help second-year and postgraduates. The university invites professionals and entrepreneurs to offer students invaluable support through one-to-one mentoring and access to the workplace to give them the confidence and skills to gain that all important graduate job, address the BME (black and minority ethnic) attainment gap and help them to develop techniques to enhance their studies.

For Sally this mentoring role was extra special as she is also an engineering graduate. “I learned that not a lot has changed in engineering since I was at university except for the increased use of computers and the fact that Karine has three female tutors whereas had none.

“I really enjoyed discovering that we had several shared experiences and was glad to feel that my business experience helped her both with coursework and as she moves into the workplace environment in her placement year. It challenged me too – once I was giving Karine some guidance and realised I needed to take my own advice. It really improved something I was working on.”

Karine has wanted to be an astronaut since she was a child and is looking forward to a long career in the space industry. Now she is a step closer to achieving her ambition as she has landed a work placement at Surrey Satellites, the world’s leading small satellite company.

Said Karine: “I wasn’t quite sure what the whole mentoring process would entail. I was keen to take part in a scheme centred on personal development, but I was a bit worried that it might be too structured or take up too much time.

Being mentored by Sally has been great. I have been able to talk through anything I have wished to improve on and had a go at putting in place advice given on such things as organisation, time management and talking to a group of people.
She has been very friendly and easy to talk to and always been there to give a bit of extra self confidence in times that I’ve needed it, like for interviews and exams.”