A couple of weeks ago I took part as a judge in a competition/scheme run by the Young Enterprise Trust , which Xero sponsors, called the BP Business Challenge. This is a scheme that YE runs around the country to encourage an understanding of enterprise and entrepreneurship amongst 16-17 year olds and acts as a feeder into the bigger Young Enterprise Scheme.
It’s a 3 day event where kids are split into teams (not necessarily of people they know) and they have to come up with an idea and formulate a business plan around the idea. Obviously the time constraint means that nothing is done too in-depth (there’s not much validation of numbers that would take even the best business minds some time to come up with). But they are given a view into a world they may not be aware of or envision being able to get into. I have no doubt that some of those kids will become the future leaders in business and with the ever decreasing barrier to entry as a start up I wouldn’t be surprised if I see some of them reach for their vision sooner rather than later.
At Wellington East Girls College the ideas themselves were really interesting. We had a quandary at the judges’ table trying to work out how we should judge the great ideas that we didn’t think could be actually produced but where they had shown some real leadership and talent in their investigation into how to get their product to market. There were some great ideas, from hair dye that should wash out after just one wash and packaged like a shampoo, to my favourite concept (and one that unfortunately I’ve since learned probably will never get made) was the simple idea of a plug socket backed by an extension cord allowing you to move the plug anywhere you want.
In the end the winning idea went to a team with a product called the suitecase, a product that could best be described as a modular suitcase with inbuilt features such as a scale to easily indicate when you’d overpacked that bag! All the teams were great presenters (better than some startup pitches I’ve seen). They all had great depth to their understanding of risks and all the aspects of getting a basic business plan together. I think they’ll all go on to do great things. Well done to all those at the College that took part.
As an aside we had Young Enterprise in the UK when I was at school and I vividly remember being on the team that won the local competition. One of the first events that fuelled my love of entrepreneurship and business, so I think it’s an amazingly worthwhile scheme.