Posted: Tue 22nd Nov 2011
To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, skills development company Enabling Enterprise ran a nationwide day long competition last Wednesday across all the Aldridge academies, which have entrepreneurship as a specialism, writes Portslade Aldridge Community Academy governor Sarah Jennings. AXA, our business insurance partner, was invited to be a judge at the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy. By the end of the day well over 100 mini social enterprises were set up in each school and ready to pitch their ideas to the judges.Â We had all sorts of ideas ranging from making mosquito nets for Africa out of recycled net curtains, to a bike beeper that automatically makes a sound if a car gets too close.Â There was a local shopping scheme for the elderly and a walking bus for the academy students to take the local primary children to school. It was a fantastic day full of creativity, talent and innovation and it struck us that there was a lot to inspire small businesses. The idea of the competition was for the students to identify a challenge facing their local community and to use their entrepreneurship skills to tackle it. The process they went through is one that would stand any business in good stead as they work on developing new projects and ideas. The day was broken into several parts. Each section had a clear goal, a strict deadline and a focus attribute. Teambuilding To kick off the students divided into teams with a diverse mix of ages and talents. The first exercise was to focus on building a team by picking a name and playing some collaborative games. This helped the students get to know each other's skills and strengths and quickly establish a successful working style.Â We know that EN members often choose to outsource work to partner companies but how often do we take time to build a team with a shared goal at the start of a project and make sure we get the very best from everyone? Generating business ideas The second part of the day was about idea creation. The students had to identify their challenge, evaluate their ideas and then, once they had picked their best idea, they had to consolidate it into a one minute proposal. Starting a project by evaluating your talents is a fantastic way of building the team's confidence and consolidating your idea onto a one minute pitch soon determines whether your idea is going to be interesting and easy to communicate. Problem solving Once they had picked their idea the next section was all about planning and the attribute focus was problem solving. The teams had to work together to evaluate what they needed and how to fund and promote their idea. They then had to produce a clear project plan. Too often in small businesses we start 'doing' before we have properly thought through our plan and identified the best route to get to the best solution.Â There are often many ways of achieving something, but this was all about achieving the task in the best and most efficient way and identifying potential obstacles and dealing with them up front. Determination Once the students had an agreed plan, so everyone knew what they were expected to deliver, they finally moved into the doing part of the day.Â This time the focus was determination.Â How often in business do we come up with a great idea, start with gusto and then let it fizzle out when we either hit an obstacle or move onto something else? The students had to create a stand to sell their idea, making it as eye catching and informative as possible, ready to discuss their ideas when the judges came round.Â What struck us was the way the teams worked round problems and how lateral they were in their approach.Â The idea was to overcome a problem rather than be blocked by it and the perseverance they showed coming at problems from various angles until they found a workable solution was fascinating. Risk-taking Finally they moved to the showcase part of the day with the focus on risk taking.Â Everyone was encouraged to take part and to make their presentation as interesting and memorable as possible. As small businesses, when the presentation looms, how many of us take the time to consider how to make our pitch memorable or think whether we should be using a different way of communicating than Powerpoint slides or a meeting? We were shown maps, models, art displays, talks, props, tables, a bus and even invited into a cardboard house for one presentation. The judges had to whittle 120 ideas down to four, and then to only one winner from each academy. The lucky winners went off to London today to compete against the winners from the other academies.Â They spent the day polishing up their business and marketing ideas with professional help before competing in the Grand Final. It was almost impossible to choose one idea from so many and AXA were so blown away by the ideas at Portslade they have donated some seed money for the children to bring more of them to fruition. We'll let you know how they get on.