Enterprising students demonstrate business acumen that rocks

Delicious homemade cakes and personalised computer hardware are just some of the business ideas developed by enterprising students at Birmingham’s Rockwood Academy as part of a major national competition aimed at fostering entrepreneurship amongst young people.

The Alum Rock school, run by CORE Education Trust, has entered seven teams of youngsters in this year’s Tycoon in Schools initiative run by the Peter Jones Foundation. Household name Peter Jones is one of the longest standing stars of hit BBC series Dragon’s Den.

Kicking off its involvement, Rockwood Academy created a realistic boardroom scenario for a day-long event titled #EnterpriseRocks. During the day, each of the seven teams, whose members are aged between 12 and 13, presented its business plan to a panel of judges led by Professor Monder Ram, of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME).

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With each team receiving a small start-up loan from the Peter Jones Foundation, business ideas ranged from a school tuck shop and homemade cake stall to personalised USB or memory sticks and a stationary shop. The various firms began trading on November 2 and will continue up until December 18, after which they will review their profits or losses and decide on a winner.

The winning team of #EnterpriseRocks will be treated to tea with Professor Saul Becker, who is Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham, Professor Monder Ram and Professor Kiran Trehan. The winning team will also meet some university students and have a short tour of the campus.

In addition, the teams will also submit an evaluation report to the Peter Jones Foundation once trading ends in December. This will be reviewed ahead of an awards ceremony for the overall national winners at Buckingham Palace in 2016.

Shabina Bi-Baroo, Project Co-ordinator for Enterprise Rocks, said the students had demonstrated a passion for business.

“We’ve been incredibly impressed by the enthusiasm for entrepreneurship at Rockwood and the large number of teams that have put themselves forward is testament to that. There is a real expectation amongst many of our students that one day they will become business leaders, running their own firms. We’ll be working closely with the teams over the coming weeks as they seek to grow their enterprises, and fingers-crossed their success will appeal to national judges.

“We are also incredibly grateful to the University of Birmingham for its invaluable support and advice this year, which I know has been of immense use to the teams,” Shabina said.

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Ayesha Bibi, whose brand is titled HomeMade Bakes, said: “When we were thinking of our business idea, our team decided to choose something simple and something everyone loves in the hope that we could attract lots of customers. That’s why we came up with the idea to produce homemade cakes, which are really fashionable at the moment. It’s been a great experience so far, learning about teamwork and overcoming challenges that business face each day. Hopefully we will get through to the finals.”

Professor Monder Ram added: “My fellow judges and I were hugely impressed by the effort and enthusiasm of the budding entrepreneurs from Rockwood Academy. They were creative, resourceful and totally committed to promoting their often clever business ideas. They were not fazed by having to present in front of a panel comprising senior representatives from the banking, business and University sector. The children should be very proud of themselves; they’re great ambassadors for the School.”