Delivered an Online Business Accelerator Programme

We designed and delivered for Pearson College London the Side Hustles | Online Accelerator Programme, which helped over a hundred participants launch a new business idea during the first lockdown.


Pearson College London is an educational institution that provides undergraduate, postgraduate, apprenticeships and short courses. All of their courses are designed to accelerate students’ careers and expand students’ horizons. 

Pearson College London is part of Pearson PLC, the world’s leading learning company. They are a multinational publishing and education company listed on the London and New York Stock Exchanges and a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. 


At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Pearson College London identified the need to support students and the general public remotely with valuable tools, tips and resources to upskill and develop their own business ideas during lockdown.

We worked with Pearson College London to design an Online Accelerator Programme to support people stuck at home – and possibly furloughed – so that they could make the most of their time by exploring the launch of a new venture on aside. 

The programme should have guided participants throughout the entire Venture Building process, including validating business ideas on the market, identifying the right customers, getting traction for an idea, learning basic finance and accounting or pitching to take the big leap.


We designed an online programme that provided participants with valuable information, resources and support to learn new skills and develop a new business idea during lockdown.

Throughout 8 online sessions, we helped participants test, refine and perfect their idea so they could evolve from spending a few hours every now and then to running a successful business.

Each participant could get access to:

  • A weekly live stream where expert facilitators would address specific topics and assigned tasks and exercises
  • The Side Hustles online community where participants could share and exchange ideas with other professionals, and look for collaborators to develop their venture.
  • Online Live Q&A with facilitators and mentors to get support along their journey.
  • On-demand access to the video of each session, to revisit the content and exercises explained, at their own pace.
  • Unlimited access to exclusive content including templates and exercises to develop their business offline.

The entire accelerator was composed by total of 8 practical 60-minutes sessions within a period of 10 weeks, which included:

  • Introduction to Lean
    participants defined their business idea and identified their values, mission and vision. They also drafted their ‘Elevator Pitch’ proposition and got feedback from industry professionals.
  • Build Your Audience
    participants learnt to understand and identify their target audience. They also engaged with their audience through Customer Discovery interviews (Link), a practical approach commonly adopted by successful startups.
  • Protect Your Idea
    participants learnt key tips on how to protect their idea with an introduction to the fundamentals of Intellectual Property(IP).
  • Develop Your Prototype with Design Thinking
    participants understood the importance of prototypes to test their idea, gauge initial interest and fix any glitches before validating the idea with customers.
  • Land Your First Sales
    Once the participants got a solid understanding of their target audience and lean start-up techniques, they explored best practices for securing traction and possibly sales.
  • Finance for Entrepreneurs
    participants learnt how to balance the books and keep a healthy cash flow with real-world start-up finance tools and advice.
  • Elevate your Pitch
    participants received in-depth advice and support on developing a perfect pitch. Our panel of experts helped participants to develop a successful business pitch, one that communicates their unique value proposition and effectively convinces business partners, investors and their audience to buy into their idea.
  • Final pitch
    participants got the chance to pitch their idea in front of a panel of experts and investors and received feedback and support.


We delivered 8 sessions across a period of 10 weeks with a turnout of 40 participants joining the live class and over 60 participants on demand.

The Side Hustles | Online Accelerator Programme helped participants gain valuable insights on how to develop their own ventures from beginning to end through a series of virtual tutorials, exclusive resources and expert advice. 

The practical sprint-based online process led by experienced venture-builders helped participants to make significant progress on their business idea. They have been able to hone their skillset and mindset by learning the key elements to succeed at business and develop their idea further.

Moreover, through the Slack Online Community, participants met other like-minded individuals to start building their business network, learnt from some of the best minds in the Startup Ecosystem and exchanged useful feedback with ‘Side Hustlers’.

What our Side Hustlers say

“The whole online course has been a wonderful experience. I acquired best practices to get a new idea to a business ready level. Thanks to all organisers!”

“Studying full-time, and managing my own startup can be challenging, especially during these times. Therefore up-skulking and equipping myself with the necessary tools and methodologies is paramount to maintain a work-life balance and run a successful business and do my best at my studies. Studio Zao and Pearson Business School helped turn my side hustle into an accelerated business.”

“I am really happy that I attended. It feels like all the ideas I have in mind might one day become real. Since I have zero knowledge in business and entrepreneurial stuff, this course was proved to be really helpful. It opened my horizons and ability to think in a new way. Will highly recommend it to other entrepreneurs.”

“Overall, I really enjoyed all the sessions, and this was an outstanding learning experience. I can definitely say that this was one of the best courses I ever attended! Thank you so much for this amazing experience.”

“This was one of the best and most useful courses I’ve attended and would definitely recommend this to everyone. It was very practical, informative and interactive – a really good kickstart for anyone thinking of becoming an entrepreneur.”

“Side Hustles Programme was of great value and really fruitful for the development of my business idea. Studio Zao’s team helped me clarify my thoughts and organise my ideas to design a more structured plan for my business. Not only the meetings but also the templates and feedbacks provided by Studio Zao were all very helpful!”

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