University ‘Challenge’ Pupils Compete In London Regional Final

28 11 2008

Hundreds joined Flying Start events for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2008. The NCGE – in partnership with Make Your Mark and university hosts – held seven Flying Start Rallies, four Flying Start-Make Your Mark Challenge events for schools, and the first international online speed networking event for student entrepreneurship club representatives.

Pupils from Langdon School in East Ham who attended one of the Flying Start-Make Your Mark Challenge events hosted by a university did so well they made it into the London Regional Final for the 14-16 age group. They will compete today against 19 other school teams from London. Good luck to them!

     Lord Bilimoria with pupils from Langdon School. A team from there will compete today in the London Regional Final of the Make Your Mark Challenge.

Lord Bilimoria with pupils from Langdon School. A team from there will compete today in the London Regional Final of the Make Your Mark Challenge.

The NCGE’s National Champion for Graduate Entrepreneurship, Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria, got their week off to a flying start at London Metropolitan University. He gave an inspirational talk and question-and-answer session for 50 students from Uxbridge College and Langdon School, as well as London Met students, staff from the Business School hosting the Challenge, and volunteers from successful businesses.

The school and college students, aged from 14-19, had been set the Challenge first thing in the morning along with 55,000 other pupils across the UK. What made this Challenge different was that they experts from the Business School on hand to encourage their ideas.

Dr Lorna Collins, the NCGE’s Director of Flying Start, and Harry Rich, Chief Executive of Make Your Mark, were on hand to mark the launch of this first event bringing schoolchildren into universities for the national Challenge.

London Metropolitan Vice-Chancellor Brian Roper and Bob Morgan, Head of London Metropolitan’s Business School, introduced this year’s Challenge, to create an entrepreneurial idea based on seven Olympic and Paralympic values:

• Respect – What or who do you respect, and why?
• Excellence – What inspires you to excellence?
• Friendship – What does friendship look and feel like?
• Courage – What makes someone courageous?
• Determination – What requires determination? What brings it out of you?
• Equality – Do you know equality? Have you experienced inequality?
• Inspiration – What inspires you? Can you think how to inspire others?

Since London Met is the capital’s leading university for sports and is closely involved in preparing for the 2012 London Olympics, the Vice-Chancellor offered an additional prize for the Challenge to support the development of the best Olympics focused business idea.

After a show of creative energy in their initial brainstorming session, the students got to meet one of the country’s leading entrepreneurs. Lord Bilimoria asked first how many in the room wanted to start a business. At least half put their hands up. “The most important thing you need to start a business,” he said, “is to really want to start it.”

Next he addressed worries about the economy. “An interviewer this morning asked me: ‘How can you encourage people to start businesses when we’re in a recession?’ I said ‘I started my business at the start of the last recession!’ The first consignment of Cobra Beer arrived at Southampton from Bangalore in June 1990.” He stressed how much the country needs new businesses and talented entrepreneurs.

Finally he asked how many of the students intended to go to university. Three-quarters of the audience raised their hands. “I resisted the temptation to start a business straightaway,” he said. “I wanted to get my education first. That knowledge has served me well.”

The view that university is irrelevant to entrepreneurs is changing, according to Lord Bilimoria. “The purpose of the NCGE, for which I am the National Champion, is to encourage all students from any university background to start a business.” He’s proud to have persuaded famous entrepreneurs who said education isn’t necessary to change their minds.

The students asked lots of great questions and left after lunch buzzing, ready to get on with the Challenge in their teams.

Three other universities – Bournemouth, Greenwich and Leeds Metropolitan – invited schoolchildren to visit them for a ‘university’ Challenge. This is something Flying Start and Make Your Mark hope to extend even further next year.

Altogether over 700 people registered for Flying Start during Global Entrepreneurship Week. Over 300 University of Derby students were involved in Entrepreneurship Week activities organised in partnership with the University of Derby’s Careers Service.

Christine Dare, Gemma Palmer and the Derby team worked tirelessly alongside the Flying Start team to organise the events, and experts Dave Morgan from UKIPO, Neil Butler from Companies House, Tim Benson from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and Luke Aikman from Bristol Developers were there to deliver a series of stimulating workshops.

Many new members have now joined the redesigned and enhanced flyingstartonline.com web support system for student and graduate entrepreneurs. They will be kept informed about the latest opportunities – such as the Flying Start Software Entrepreneurship Programme backed by Microsoft in mid December (application deadline Monday 1 December at 5pm) – so that they can make their business ideas a reality.

Simon Phelps with his FLOODSTOP barrier.

Simon Phelps with his FLOODSTOP barrier.

On Thursday morning, Flying Start Global Entrepreneur Simon Phelps was invited to 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister. Simon was one of ten business owners asked to provide an insight into how the economic downturn is affecting trading conditions.

In 2007, Simon became one of the first of this country’s most promising graduate entrepreneurs to be funded by the NCGE to travel to the United States and experience how enterprise and entrepreneurship is encouraged there.

The six months he spent there, hosted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, were influential in helping him develop his business. “The time with my US mentors during my internship has been invaluable, they have provided me with amazing insight and advice which really helped me make headway with the progress of Fluvial Innovations Ltd,” he said.

Simon’s multifunctional FLOODSTOP barrier is now being tested and used very effectively by local authorities, in the Environment Agency’s southern region, and a flood-prone domestic property.

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