We attended the Young Enterprise Company of the Year Awards London Finals just last month. Five companies from London schools competed for a place in the UK finals. Our very own Jennifer Welford was judging, alongside representatives from Disney, HSBC, Citi and Asda. We were amazed by the professionalism, hard work and creativity of the young entrepreneurs.
We arrived during set-up and were immediately impressed. Alpha’s sleek theft-proof backpacks, with their edgy wolf logo, could sit alongside a Herschel in Topman.
Storm’s reusable, recyclable coffee cups in hipster-chic colours clearly belonged on the shelves of Urban Outfitters, Waitrose, trendy cafés and lifestyle shops.
High Flyers’ robot-shaped, glow-in-the-dark, portable phone chargers wouldn’t be out of place in any phone accessory outlet.
SmartStart’s range of educational, portable whiteboard cards had so many practical applications.
Victus’ handy Key Kosy, an organiser case to keep keys from damaging other belongings, was a simple answer to a common problem.
After an initial discussion, the judges came out to meet the entrepreneurs, who fielded questions with practiced ease.
When pushed on their recyclable claim, Storm explained how most reusable cups were made of a mix of plastics. ‘When you melt them down, you have to separate all the different plastics. It’s really difficult. Ours are one 100% polypropylene.’ When SmartStart were asked how their product could compete with an iPad they didn’t blink; ‘You can’t take an iPad in the bath.’ To demonstrate the effectivity of their backpacks, one Alpha member challenged a judge to break into the bag on his back; it couldn’t be done.
These weren’t kids having a go, they were operating businesses with marketable products and profit to show. At Accounts and Legal, we see hundreds of business ideas and products being put through their paces, and we were blown away by the level of research, meticulous product development, multi-platform marketing strategies, professional business plans and salesmanship.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the evening was when each company made a short presentation. Their stories were inspirational, and delivered with astounding confidence. Storm wowed with their clarity and detail. Victus had the entire audience in stiches with their theatrical performance, punctuated with head-grasping and united cries of their shared nemesis, ‘Bulky keys!’
Several companies had placed products with local retailers or organisations, and had big-name deals in the pipeline. These companies don’t plan to close with the end of the Young Enterprise programme.
Storm was announced overall winner, and will go on to compete at the UK final today, 2nd July 2015. They were ecstatic, and we have our fingers crossed they’ll make it through to the EU championship. We love their cups so much, we're ordering some for ourselves, perhaps even customised with our own logo.