‘Put a pony in my pocket’ so the title song went of a famous television series, but as this ditty might suggest we are not talking about the cute toys that my daughter used to collect in the 90s, nor their older and more elegant cousins running recently at Goodwood, but the ability to make some money! Making money was at the heart of three courses run by David Harkin, Entrepreneur in Residence at Surbiton High School, the 7billionideas team and a handful of teachers from the School.
The courses for pupils in Years 8, 10 and 12 ran during the final weekend of the Summer term and the first week of the holidays. Each course targeted a different aspect of entrepreneurship, with the Year 10 and 12 pupils working alongside the boys from Hampton School.
The two themes throughout the courses were preparation and punctuality; deadlines missed and late proposals meant losing points, which would negate some of the positive work. The courses mimicked real world scenarios, meaning pupils had to regularly monitor communications and react quickly to any changes in instructions, of which there were many.
Year 8 – Realising Potential
The Realising Potential course had a taste of being in the Dragons’ Den, with Year 8s coming up with an idea and pitching it to the 7billionideas team and the teachers. The course was eye-opening in terms of seeing how creative our Year 8s could be and the confidence with which they attempted to sell their ideas was fantastic. Each pitch was classified as either ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘maybe’. For each ‘yes’ and a few ‘maybes’ the proposer was, by self-selection among the pupils, given a team of four or five with which to prepare a poster, jingle, product mock-up, go-to-market plan and a presentation. Teamwork and division of labour were quickly perceived to be essential and pupils got down to task quickly.
With a deadline to meet and the bottom floor of Mary Bennett House looking like the Blue Peter studios in overdrive, each team pitched and presented. The teams did very well to keep within the time frames given for their presentations. The effort that had gone into the task was first rate. Highlights included: a virtual memory package that could be delivered on-line for those suffering from dementia, a bee-box to help counteract the rapid drop nationwide of pollinators, an earpiece that would carry out ‘real time’ translations in foreign countries and a braille map for public areas, such as tourist information offices to help blind and partially-sighted people find their way around towns.
Quite by chance BBC Business Breakfast broadcast an article about how hard it is for females to attract venture capital funding on day 2 of the course: only 1% of available capital goes to female-led companies! A course such as this has helped our pupils have confidence in coming up with and selling their ideas. As someone once said, ‘Dream early, as you never know how long it will take to realise your dreams!’.
Year 10 – Unleashing Potential
With the Year 10s the boot was on the other foot: this time they were the venture capitalists evaluating ideas, rather than creating them. Each group was given the prospect of a ‘real’ company to consider and analyse over the course of two days. In their teams they discussed the pros and cons of investing and presented back to other course participants, detailing their verdict and analysis.
The skills acquired included the ability to look at figures to see whether the company was viable, to carry out a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis and to look at its position in the market place. They had to meet deadlines and quickly assimilate a vast amount of (sometimes) semi-specialist information.
Baasit Siddiqui of Goggle Box fame came along on Saturday to talk about how he became an entrepreneur and how he managed to acquire funding for his start-up. At the end of his presentation, there was a queue to take a selfie with him!
During the activities and presentations our pupils conducted themselves in a professional and confident manner, fully understanding the briefs. Several of them were awarded distinctions for their outstanding contribution to their team’s efforts.
Year 12 – Reaching Potential
And so on to Proctor and Gamble (P&G) for the Year 12s. Here they were split into mixed teams with the pupils acting as consultants brought in to analyse and address a problem the company is currently facing: ‘How to attract and retain graduate trainees from Generation Z’. The girls were ultimately required to pitch for the contract. For P&G this is an expensive problem to solve because the loss of a graduate trainee means a loss of approximately 25k in training fees.
The teams had to rapidly come up with company names, mission statements and advice for P&G to tackle this aspect of their recruitment strategy.
It was heartening to see how quickly teams grasped the complexities of the problem and prepared proposals for the company that to them (the pupils) could be deal-breakers in five or so years’ time when they enter the job market. It was interesting to see how issues such as the environment, corporate responsibility and work-life balance are important to our Year 12s when thinking about future careers.
A recent graduate trainee spoke to the group about what is important when looking for internships and trainee programmes, stressing the need to get on with those with whom you work, both peers and superiors, the willingness to be a joiner but even more importantly the confidence to organise something – no matter what – to show initiative and the ability to be a self-starter.
Teams had to present to middle-order executives from the company who asked searching questions and pinned the teams down on costs in terms of the consultancy, as well as costs of implementing certain initiatives as part of a training package.
The Surbiton pupils were exceptional in their creativity and professionalism; a good number were awarded distinctions for their contributions.
So, three different courses with common core strands running throughout. It was a very profitable use of time for delegates to learn skills that can be used both now and in the future.
To return to the opening sentence of this article, as that doyen of entrepreneurship, Del Boy, used to say: ‘One day we’re going to be millionaires!’