Steven Mugglestone

The more I learn, the less I know

We Can All Learn Something from Young Enterprise

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We Can All Learn Something from Young Enterprise

I had the absolute honour and joy to be asked to part of the judging panel for the 2011 West Midlands Regional Finals held at the Great Hall of Birmingham University on the last Friday in June. The first thing to say is that there are a lot of people out there who have never heard of Young Enterprise or who do not fully comprehend, or appreciate, what they do, so go and have a look at their website to find out more at
www.young-enterprise.org.uk/.

My involvement stems from my firm carrying out an audit for the West Midlands region, prior to them merging nationally to be part of the single Young Enterprise national charitable company. After a brief working relationship, I wanted to find out more, so I volunteered to be a business adviser helping a school, part way through their business year, as they had been without an adviser prior to then.

Young Enterprise use a tag line of “Start Something … and igniting the spirit of enterprise..”, with the Finals being tagged with “Start Something….Inspirational.” and that is certainly what it is and what the organisation does.

Spending the afternoon and evening with the six teams of 16/17 year old budding entrepreneurs helped me not only understand what Young Enterprise stands for, it also helped to remind me, why I am in business and why being an entrepreneur and being an adviser to other entrepreneurs is one of the most fulfilling careers that someone can undertake.

I do recognise that there is an attempt to build business as the new rock and roll, with Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice television favourites. All I can say is that all of young entrepreneurs in the final would make the Apprentice finalists look like amateurs and Lord Sugar would look to help to invest in all of them.

The finals were the culmination of nearly a year of a business life from the initial ideas to sales fares, websites, county finals, deals with local shops and even Amazon and Waterstone’s, through to presentations and pitches and the production of an annual report charting their success and continuing to pitch and promote their businesses.

The judges received six business reports to read prior to the finals day, had the opportunity to speak to every business and see their products at their trade stalls, watched their presentations and 15 second adverts in order to discuss and choose the winning businesses. In fact all the six were already winning businesses.

We were asked to judge the competition for awards in marketing, finance, product development, individual leadership and the overall winning business that then goes on to the UK finals in London. It was a difficult task as the standard of all was incredibly high and a reminder to everyone that you can start a business with next to no money (starting capital raised was around £140 each).

The winners of the marketing award, business name One, and based in Stratford Upon Avon, had created, produced and published their own cookbook, with each three course meal based around the short synopsis of a Shakespeare play. The book is called “Much Ado About Cooking” and is being sold at Waterstone’s, has been accredited by the RSC and has a forward from Dame Judy Dench. Their presentation at the finals was excellent and confident, starting with the words “To cook or not to cook …..” and ending on “All’s well that ends well.” These young entrepreneurs really did understand the power of their brand and were already looking at the American and world market, utilising the power of the Shakespeare brand.

The winners of the product development award also hit upon a number of key themes and USPs to create and drive their business. The business is known as Novelty and utilised the strap-line “Wooden it be nice,” for their hand-made wooden garden bird houses. Creating a number of designs, sourcing wood and local carpenters to create the basic boxes, the company had created its own production line for finishing and customising the boxes for individual customers if need be (and charging accordingly). Planting trees themselves and ensuring that the business was carbon neutral added to their strong business ethos and with new development of introducing remote battery powered web-cams to watch the birds on your own pc, the ingenuity and product development was superb. The business also won a media award for their 15 second animated advert that showed a bird flying into a bird box, sitting down in front of a TV set and finishing with the strap line, turn your bird house into a home.

The winners of both the finance and overall company award, and now going to the national finals in London, were Versaleaf. These bright young entrepreneurs had created a range of double sided material to create Knotthebag, created from Furoshiki, the Japanese art of folding a tying material to create a wide variety of different bags. The company had created pattern and instruction cards, an instruction DVD and a range of patterns and styles. Creating a sewing production line, various supplies and cloth designs, an online retail facility and in discussions with Amazon, the business has covered everything. Their presentation was a slick as most of the “professional” pitches that I have seen, with their obvious finger on the button and knowledge of the multi-billion pound women’s handbag market. Having recently bought new bedroom units, I was fully aware of this particular market potential.

The runners up, whilst not walking away with a trophy were equally as impressive and entrepreneurial. Sweet Sensations combining the favourite gifts of chocolates and flowers and creating impressive ranges of bouquets of chocolates. J’Adore created and published The Essential Guide to Boarding School, and impressively sold this across schools around the UK culminating in an offer from the British Boarding School Association to purchase the copyright. The final company, Dynamic, faced the common business trials of their original product design not reaching safety standards and having to start again, but their entrepreneurial spirit kept them going to create their range of personalised gift canvases.

All in all the sheer drive and enthusiasm for their business was inspiring and all of the businesses and young entrepreneurs deserved not only to be their but should ensure future success in these businesses and others that they create. There were some obvious clues to more opportunity and contacts being available to the private school students, but this was more than made up by the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation from the businesses from the state schools. So much, I am sure that Lord Sugar would be impressed.

The business skills and drive shown was also an inspiration to me and all of the judges. All of the young entrepreneurs reminded me of why being in business is so important and why it is also so important to help promote this in young people. They certainly reminded me that the positive attitude, the drive and pride to see your product being launched and your business succeeding is the real thrill. In a business world that can be sometimes cynical and sometimes stagnant in a recession, Young Enterprise helps the older entrepreneurs rekindle their real entrepreneurial spirit.

I am certainly looking forward to helping another Young Enterprise company in the new academic year, in the autumn. I know that I will get as much out of it as well as helping the young entrepreneurs themselves. I would ask everyone in business to consider helping, forget about an MBA, become a Young Enterprise Business Adviser and help a real young business and by doing that you will help to ignite the spirit of enterprise. We certainly can all learn something from Young Enterprise.

www.young-enterprise.org.uk/

Steven Mugglestone BA FCA,

McGregors Corporate, Entrepreneurial Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers
…….Really good for your business

McGregors Corporate are a Member of Probiz Tax, providing Innovative Tax Solutions to Owner Managed Businesses.

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steven@mcgregorsbirmingham.co.uk

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Written by Steven Mugglestone

June 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm

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