Entrepreneurial spirit leads to great technological advancement that shapes our lives in countless ways: the things we consume, the way we communicate, the way we travel, the types of industries that grow and flourish… The world is moving at a quicker pace than ever and, with this, brings more opportunity for innovation. Most school age students will probably struggle to remember a time without the internet and the shape of society has evolved drastically from generation to generation. In order to take advantage of such opportunities current students require practical skills and a working knowledge of business. By looking to the future, both through the creation of new businesses and products and to the youth of today who will be leading these ventures, Young Enterprise teaches students something that cannot be found within the curriculum.
Young Enterprise is a UK charity that aims to provide financial education and working skills to those aged between 4 and 25. Providing young people with the skills, confidence and opportunities to work is invaluable: young people are able to develop enterprises or obtain fulfilling jobs which in turn helps them to become financially stable and contribute to the economy so that the opportunity can be passed on to others. For those of school leaving age, the working skills gained via Young Enterprise programmes help provide alternative routes following secondary education at a time when university fees are rising but few suitable alternatives to further education are offered. And, with 70% of employers claiming that they think school leavers are not ready for the world of work, the need for these skills is clear.
Young Enterprise recently held the Fiver Challenge, where primary school aged students are given £5 to set up a mini business. With this small sum participants were given just one month to create an enterprise, whether as a solo venture or a group company. The small figures involved in the challenge encouraged participants to tune in to their creativity in order to make the most out of their starting pot and generate a profit. The Fiver Challenge is an entertaining way to introduce younger children to the concept of business and enterprise. Entrants came up with a host of ideas, from classic lemonade stands to selling funky socks. An awards ceremony will be held in September to celebrate the achievements of those involved in the challenge.
The biggest endeavour of Young Enterprise, however, is the annual JA Europe Company of the Year competition which saw over 21,000 students take part from across the UK. These students formed over 2,000 companies and created successful, working businesses that produced over £2 million of sales – a real success for all involved. Students worked exceptionally hard alongside their studies for nine months with the help of local businesses and volunteers who provide coaching on business and entrepreneurial skills that have been developed through their own careers.
Students developed, designed and tested prototypes in order to produce sellable models in order to drive profits. Many companies chose to utilise the far reaching powers of the Internet in order to reach as many customers as possible. Students also had to market their brands and find some real originality in order to show that they had created a successful product with a working business model. This process is one that many entrepreneurs go through when developing their own business ideas and as such imparts participating students with genuine entrepreneurial experience. The winning UK group, taking the title of ‘Company of the Year’ Award for 2015, were students from St Helen’s School in Northwood, Middlesex, who won with their business Orenda. Orenda presented their novel idea for the snacks market, the ‘Sip O’ Snack’, which combines a drink and snack container for convenient, on the go use. Their ingenuity was praised by CEO of Young Enterprise, Michael Mercieca for being “a must-have for busy people on the go” and an “intricate design and brand”.
As the UK finalists, Orenda also had the opportunity to travel and compete against 36 other companies from 35 countries in the European finals in Berlin on July 31st. The European final allows for a rich exchange of cultural and business ideas and students were lucky recipients of talks held by successful entrepreneurs. Citi, FedEx, HSBC and Disney are amongst some of the global brands that sponsor the awards, demonstrating the high calibre of contestants and the high regard the awards hold.
Whilst Orenda worked extremely hard and presented a wonderful product, they were not crowned as the overall winners. German company RAUTECK won the overall Company of the Year Award 2015. Working from a sustainable business idea, with obvious forethought to the environmental and economic demands of the future, RAUTECK took the concept of Upcycling to another level and fashioned bottle openers and bags out of old car parts.
Other companies saw the creation of wonderful products such as ‘SelFeed’, an app produced by students from Malta that gives diners a discount on their bill when sharing photos of their meal through social media and ‘Insects-Free’, an insect repellent developed by students from Cyprus that repels bugs without any harmful emissions.
With so many students keen to take part in the competition offered by Young Enterprise and a huge array of truly state-of-the-art products, it seems likely that businesses will continue to grow and develop in unexpected ways. If you would like to find out more about the education provided by Young Enterprise visit www.young-enterprise.org.uk/ for information and ways of getting involved.