A group of teenagers from a Hartlepool school have put North East England on the map – or should we say ‘sur la carte’? - for coming up with great ideas for new businesses.
The students, from English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College, have beaten schools from right around the UK to win a prestigious award after coming up with an idea for a business to help primary school pupils learn French.
Their company, LanguAges, was launched as part of their enterprise studies at school and is the only business from the North East to ever win a title from the national Young Enterprise awards.
THE LANGUAGE OF SUCCESS
The team’s idea was to offer an education kit to help young people learn French. It includes shopping, clothes and class card games, along with CD roms for schools and parents.
They’d spotted that the choice of learning games in languages other than English was very limited – so they had a gap in the market that was theirs to exploit. They tested their products with primary and secondary schools, to find out what teachers and students thought of the ideas.
One of the main things they had to consider was how to market and sell their product. They decided that people would be more inclined to buy from LanguAges if they had a good corporate image, so that was a top priority. They took their products to a trade fair at the Metro Centre and did a presentation for the Local Education Authority.
The students also had to plan their company finances, set budgets for production and sales, keep financial records and control their cashflow - along with spotting how they could do things better in future.
Their financial planning was so good that they won an award for it!
Their teacher, Linda Ward, says there could be a career in this for the students: “We’re extremely proud of LanguAges and are delighted that the company’s won a national award. I feel that the group has great potential to carry on and take the business further forward in the future.”
And the students agree. Their spokesman told Way to Go: “We have been lucky, as we’ve got an outstanding team and we think the company has great potential for the future.”
A CLOSE RUN THING
But LanguAges isn’t the only school business success story in the region. Voila!, a bespoke waitressing business created by students at Central High School in Newcastle, was a runner up to be named the North East’s young Company of the Year, along with Way2GO Events by Carmel RC College in Darlington, and Educrate by Newcastle Church High School.
‘Educrate’ produces educational learning boxes for young children. The team fill each one with special materials to help kids develop skills on a specific theme - from calendars to cookery. Way 2GO Events was set up because of the fun factor! The team behind this business have organised school discos and gigs, and have also provided products and services to help an event run smoothly.
So, it just goes to show – it doesn’t matter how young or how old you are, enterprise can open lots of doors for a future career. There are lots of young people in the North East who are being inspired to work together to test out their business ideas. But how can you become one of them?
We asked Catherine Marchant who runs the charity Young Enterprise North East - if she can’t tell us, nobody can!
Catherine, you work with young entrepreneurs all over the North East. What sort of qualities do young people need to have to be successful in starting a business? Is it easy to spot someone who’s got a ‘head’ for enterprise?
Despite what many young people think, to be a successful entrepreneur you don’t need to be academically clever. Nor do you need to have lots of money, or a highly technical invention.
Entrepreneurs are people who are passionate about their ideas, committed to them and prepared to work hard. They are willing to take risks and aren’t afraid to fail. They can spot opportunities and niche markets - even if that means producing something which is already being sold, but doing it better.
Unfortunately, many young people don’t realise they have what it takes because they may not have the chance to get practical experience of running a business while they’re still at school.
We come across many young people who have never thought about starting up their own business, but once they’ve had a taste of the highs and lows of being their own boss they soon realise there is another option for them for the future - whether it’s something they want to do immediately or a few years down the line.
How can young people get more experience of enterprise?
More schools, colleges and universities are starting to include enterprise in their lessons and activities. But there’s nothing like practical experience when it comes to learning about running a business – whether that’s through a Saturday job, doing a work experience placement or running the tuck shop at a youth centre.
The special programmes that Young Enterprise run in schools give you a chance to ‘try before you buy’ – you can take control of your own business in a safe and structured environment.
What should I do once I come up with a great idea – who can I talk to about taking it further?