Create a business and turn it into a practical way of generating income. That was the task set by Portsmouth-based educational charity, Faith and Football in the 2017 Business and Enterprise Challenge. The idea of the competition is for students across the south in Year 9 to form a group, start a company and practise vital communication, marketing and sales skills in the process. All of the profits made during the competition is paid to the charity and spent on their work overseas.The winning team is given tickets to an all-inclusive trip to Goa, India to see first-hand where the money generated by the charity is going and who is benefiting. The challenge is in its 12th year and I followed The Portsmouth Grammar School’s entry, The Cookie Co to establish what the competition entails and to explore some of the challenges that they faced.
Faith and Football is a Christian charity operating in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Cambridge, their goal is to run a variety of educational programmes across different year groups in an attempt to provide opportunities to young people. One of their flagship programmes is the Social Enterprise and Business Challenge for Year 9 students to set up their own company and run it for four months. At the end of this time, business plans, storyboards and all financial accounts need to be submitted to the charity's Head Office in Portsmouth for review. The aim of the challenge is to try and increase the students employability and providing crucial skills in leadership, coordination and team participation.
There were numerous entries from The Portsmouth Grammar School, however, due to the nature of this style of competition, unfortunately some had to drop out. From the outset, I followed one of the schools entries, The Cookie Co. The business, operated by Arya Gowda, Jevon Hannah, Sarnaz Hussain, George Davis-Marks and Rohin Kachroo, specialises in selling premium, handmade cookies with flavours inspired by oriental foods across the world. The team created an impressive website with an online store, integrating PayPal as a payment method and they also explored the possibilities of social media channels, interacting with customers via Twitter and Instagram.
They had created a very successful brand and unique product in a very busy market. To sell their handmade goods, they organised a variety of sales at the school as well as taking on high street favourites, setting up temporary outlet shops in Cascades and the Meridian Centre in Portsmouth and Southampton respectively. The process was monitored by Paul and Wynelle Cowdery, independent business mentors from the US, it was their job to provide guidance and offer assistance to the five as they completed the competition. Paul and Wynelle have worked as mentors for businesses such as Mondelez International, the umbrella company responsible for household food brands Cadbury, Oreo, Sour Patch and more. PGS pupil, Daniel Hill, also oversaw the group, offering skills that he gained from completing the challenge last year.
After four months of innovation, trading and online interactions with customers from across the United Kingdom, The Cookie Co submitted their business report which contained details of all of their business operations. This was then judged by a panel of industry experts who scrutinised the thirty one page document, picking it apart and grading the business.
As part of my media coverage of the Faith and Football Social Enterprise and Business Challenge, I was invited to attend the final of the competition which was hosted at the Portsmouth FC Stadium. The event kicked off just after 16:00 on Monday 12th June 2017 with co-founder Steve Rolls discussing the foundations of the charity and the success of their challenge which is now in its 12th year. Co-founder Mick Mellows then spoke at the event, discussing the importance and significance of vision: in business, in personal life and in communication. He stressed on how this challenge allowed pupils to overcome obstacles and make hard decisions. There was also a mention of the business mentors who worked tirelessly assisting the groups and helping them develop important skills. Year 11 pupil from The Portsmouth Grammar School, Daniel Hill was invited onto the stage to discuss his role as a mentor for the group. He said:
“When I did the challenge, I really enjoyed everything. I have learnt that personally, I think that it is really important to help other people to have the same experiences as us and that is what made me become an ambassador for this year”
After announcements were made, the winner was announced. Unfortunately, The Cookie Co did not feature in the winners line-up or win any awards for teamwork, ability or business communication, although they did win a certificate, which according to Steve Rolls is “worth its weight in gold”.
The winner of the competition was Skyview, a team that utilised the technology of drones to take aerial photos and videos of people and events in exchange for a fee. They were successful in using technological innovation as the starting block of their business and for their teamwork and strong leadership throughout the competition.
I caught up with Mick Mellows, co-founder of Faith and Football and he told me that:
“Although The Cookie Co were not winners of the prize of an all expenses paid trip to India, the team were a credit to their school and set the standard for future teams to participate in the challenge”
After the event, I caught up with Sarnaz Hussain, a member of The Cookie Co to ask him what he thought of the competition. He said that:
“An experience which has opened up many opportunities for us in the future and an experience that I would recommend”
The competition is launched in January of each year and is an exciting competition to be involved in, to find out more about the charity and the educational programmes they have developed, click here.