After graduating from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) with a degree in Sports Coaching and Child Development, Kieran Fletcher’s passion to continue learning and make a difference to the lives of young people led to an idea for a business. With support from Northern Lights, a business support facility based in the Media Factory building at UCLan, Kieran grew his community sports initiative from start-up level into an established service, FUNDA. It now partners with local authorities and schools to deliver health and fitness education, helping children to lead more active lifestyles.
Kieran Fletcher graduated in 2006 with a degree in Sports Coaching and Child Development, choosing UCLan because it suited his study aims and he was able to commute from home to keep focused on his studies. As a graduate, he took on part-time jobs coaching children in football, but was keen to put the theory obtained through his degree into practice, using what he’d learnt to make a difference to local communities. His vision was of an inclusive service benefitting children of all sporting abilities or interests.
“Being active and healthy is something which has always been important to me, and it’s a habit for a lifetime. It’s so important to educate children and their parents about leading a more active lifestyle, while developing confidence and social skills too,” Kieran explains.
“Childhood obesity is a growing issue which is why it’s key to inform families as soon as possible on how to prevent health problems through sport, which can be fun too. This is why I was keen to put my knowledge and skills to the test to benefit the wider community.”
Kieran was in the Media Factory at UCLan when he spotted an opportunity with Northern Lights, a chance to turn his vision into a reality. Working closely with mentors and advisors gave Kieran the tools he needed to develop a successful business. Under the guidance of mentor John Duckworth, Kieran was able to grow and enhance skills. Kieran said: “John has extensive knowledge of strategy development which enabled me to learn how to become a strategic thinker, which helped me to shape my vision for the business.”
Kieran utilised all available resources, like the office space within the incubation units at the Media Factory. It was a place he could achieve full concentration and get stuck into tasks. “It was great as it prompted me to network with other businesses, and gave me a real taste for the business world – the energy and atmosphere in the place is unforgettable,” he says.
He also attended networking events to learn from successful business people, taking on board tips and advice to help him develop professionally. “The whole Northern Lights team supported me, allowing and encouraging me to take full advantage of the wide range of resources. One important lesson I’ve learnt is that in business, if you don’t ask you won’t get!”
FUNDA stands for fundamental coaching and aims to get even the most inactive children active. Based in Kieran’s hometown of Burnley it employs 20 full-time staff, and delivers physical education, school sport, teacher CPD support, holiday camps, after school clubs, childcare, birthday parties and community play projects supported by government agencies for children aged two-16 years.
It’s also about educating children and parents about the importance of balancing health and fitness with life skills. Children get the chance to develop skills in core subjects, with a programme which links in with physical education. The website – www.fundaplay.co.uk – provides access to online resources, with brochures and information available to download.
Developing relationships with schools, colleges and local authorities has strengthened FUNDA’s growing portfolio. “We’ve teamed up with Bolton Council to provide specialist PE, school sport and teacher CPD support, which has been an exciting opportunity; it’s great to see local authorities noticing the benefits of our approach.”
The business was named Caring Employer of the Year and won the Publisher’s Choice Award at the Lancashire Business View Red Rose Awards in 2014, and is a finalist at the Burnley Business Awards 2015 in the Small Business category.
When the Queen visited Burnley as part of the Diamond Wedding celebrations, UCLan, along with Burnley College and several local businesses nominated Kieran to meet her, as a reward for the great work FUNDA does in the community. “It’s certainly one of the highlights of my journey so far, it really felt like a great achievement and honour to be selected to represent the region.”
There are a number of initiatives and ventures the FUNDA team are busy working on to establish the brand nationwide, as well as continuing to target hard to reach communities to promote the benefits of being healthy and active.
“FUNDA operates throughout the North West and this is the key area for me in which I’d like to see communities benefit. We’re focusing on continuing to build on the brand while seeking partners and investors to support our objectives, with any generated funds being re-invested into activities which will make a difference for children. That’s what it’s all about for me.
“Without the help of the Northern Lights team, FUNDA would not be the established business it is today” he says.
Peter Rawling, Business Incubation Manager at Northern Lights said: “It’s been fantastic to watch and support Kieran transform from an extremely focused UCLan graduate entrepreneur into a successful businessman, leading a team of 20 staff. His hard work, commitment, enthusiasm and tenacity have really paid off.
“His passion and enthusiasm for health and fitness combined with a determination to utilise every resource provided by Northern Lights has led to what is now an award winning business, making a difference to many young people’s lives.”