UNLIKE most entrepreneurs, Anna Devitt doesn’t particularly enjoy being her own boss. Indeed, the 29-year-old freely admits she’d rather someone else managed the business side of things.

Ms Devitt’s main focus, you see, is on imbuing our most vulnerable young people with the confidence to go on and be successful in life, and it’s the creative and developmental part of her enterprise, Direct Devitt, that drives her.

Despite this reluctance to embrace management, the award-winning young businesswoman says she has learned and honed a plethora of new skills while growing her firm, which uses comedy as a vehicle to improve the confidence of disadvantaged youngsters, giving them an SQA Level 5 qualification in the process.

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“I experienced a pretty tough upbringing in Glasgow, had mental health issues as a teenager and was expelled from three schools,” she explains.

“But I found the confidence to train as an actress and that led to me becoming a fairly successful stand-up. Comedy really did save me, it was my therapy. It built my confidence and resilience and enabled me to laugh at myself. I appeared on Britain’s Got Talent as a singing belly – that says it all.”

Ms Devitt, who lives in Renfrew, got thinking about how she could use comedy to help others and contacted the Scottish Qualifications Authority when she came up with her idea. They were impressed.

She spent two years developing the Confidence Through Comedy course, which uses teamwork, body language, vocal training and other tools to help young people flourish. It is now being delivered in a clutch of local authorities across Scotland, including Renfrewshire, Falkirk and Argyll and Bute, and is already proving hugely successful.

“All the young people who have gained their SQA qualification have gone on to further education or employment,” says Ms Devitt. “And that’s what makes me most proud. When you see a young person change direction in life, from going nowhere to really making something of themselves, I feel genuine pride. Changing the mindset of someone young and lacking in confidence isn’t easy but it can be done. But, as we highlight, the school curriculum needs to be more creative to make that happen.”

In November 2016, less than a year after launch, Ms Devitt won Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce’s Enterprise and Education Award, part of the Scottish EDGE fund run by Scots entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter. This led to £10,000 from the Big Lottery, which has allowed the business to expand quickly.

In fact, Ms Devitt, who runs the business from offices at Storage Vaults in Paisley and employs a team of freelance tutors, is currently completing on a contract that will see her expertise and qualification licensed throughout the UK.

But for the ambitious entrepreneur, this is only the beginning. “I’d like to see my qualification offered in every school in every local authority in Scotland,” she says. “And one day I’d like to open my own school, with a creative curriculum that offers a new way of educating young people. That’s the only way we’re ever going to narrow the attainment gap.”

As for her own personal development, Ms Devitt, who gained an HNC in community education while running the business, laughs that she sometimes doesn’t recognise herself.

“I’ve learned so much, so quickly,” she explains. “But I think the most important thing is to keep going, even when things are tough. I’ve invented something new, I’m doing something no one has done before and that’s great, but but’s pretty tough too. There have been obstacles to get over, staff have come and gone. But you mustn’t lose sight of what’s really important, the thing that drove you to this point in the first place.

“Sometimes I speak to CEOs and managers, heads of education services, and I get the fear. But then I remember that no one knows everything.

“You must always hang on to your big dream, and just go for it.”