1 June 2017

Aspiring business leaders and would-be marketing experts put their best feet forward in an inter-college competition inspired by hit BBC television show The Apprentice.

Students from West Nottinghamshire College, Ashfield School and Chesterfield College were set the challenge of devising a campaign based on turning a pair of plain white plimsolls into a best-selling product, which they would have to design, market and pitch to a panel of judges.

Called the Future Business Leader Challenge, it was organised by BTEC Level 3 Business Diploma students from West Notts, Kyron Caunt, 17, Connor Barnard, 18, and Bethany Searson, 19, all from Sutton-in-Ashfield.

After coming up with a format for the competition, the trio visited several colleges and sixth-forms across the region earlier this year to launch it to fellow students and invite them to enter teams. They also selected West Notts’ teams through a series of interviews.

West Notts was represented by two teams – Beau, and Pins and Needles, while Chesterfield also had two teams, Panzer and Luco Ross. Ashfield School was represented by TagZ.

They had 18 weeks to create a design and brand for the footwear, devise a billboard and television advert, as well as advertise and market the plimsolls, to be branded for a particular audience in order to make it a successful and viable product.

Working in teams of up to five, the 20 students whose ages ranged from 13 to 19, were expected to raise any funds they needed to create the advertising campaign, up to a maximum of £50.

The challenge, which was sponsored by Primark, reached its conclusion on Friday 26 May when teams came together at West Nottinghamshire College’s Vision University Centre to showcase their campaigns to judges to determine the winners of the ‘best presentation’ and ‘best pitch’ cateories.

Judges were Dame Asha Khemka, the college’s principal and chief executive; Louise Knott, vice-principal; Gill Parkes, vice-principal at Chesterfield College; Kamal Sharma, partner and shareholder at global professional services company Accutor AG; Yvette Robinson, co-founder of Mansfield publishing firm Hi Vis Press, and Randolph Bazaz, who works for Nike and has a background in graphic design.

The presentations saw students explain their product idea, barriers they overcame, skills developed and how these will help them in subsequent years, what they would do differently next time, and the most enjoyable aspects of the challenge.

Pitches involved an introduction of each team member’s role, their knowledge of the market including audience and size, what differentiated their product from others, their business model and revenue-generating plans, and how their product was financed.

Pins and Needles – consisting of West Notts business students Joshua Bray, Jordan Drury, Sam Hufton, Emily Clark and Gabriel Winnard-Skelton – won the best pitch category after designing a campaign for a “fully-customised pop/punk-style shoe that is designed to be as unique as the wearer.”

Team member Emily, 17, from Mansfield, said:

“Our pitch was quite informal but I think we really showed our personalities. We just had fun with it and enjoyed ourselves, and I think that came across to the judges. Above all, we had a great product to talk about.

“I suffer from social anxiety and I’m not very confident in front of audiences, so the fact I’ve helped win this pitch is pretty amazing. It was terrifying but also kind of liberating. I could go and do it again now!”

TagZ – Ashfield School A-level students Luiza Adamczyk, Millie Washington, Oliver Trustwell and Alex Coe and Key Stage 3 pupil Jack Harris – was named winner of the best presentation for its campaign focusing on innovative footwear designs “based on iconic city skylines, featuring silhouettes of New York, London, Paris and Dubai, capturing their unique cultures and story behind the brand.”

Alex, 18, from Blackwell, Derbyshire, who studies business, law and English language at the Kirkby-in-Ashfield school’s sixth-form, said:

“Everyone played their part in the whole presentation, rather than one person taking the lead. It’s been a great team effort all the way through the process.

“Each of us knows the brand so well, and the hard work we’ve put in over the past few months all came together. It’s great to have this acknowledgement from the judges at the end of it.”

Winning teams received a glass trophy and certificates, with each member scooping a £20 Amazon voucher. All participants in the challenge will receive a ticket for a Nottingham Rugby Club match next season.

Meanwhile, students that demonstrated outstanding contributions were hand-picked for special prizes of work experience and work shadowing at award-winning Mansfield companies Linney Group and Hall-Fast Industrial Supplies.

The three places on offer at Linney’s went to Millie Washington from TagZ (Ashfield School), Emily Clark from Pins and Needles (West Notts College) and Oliver Slaney from Luco Ross (Chesterfield College), while Pins and Needles member Gabriel Winnard-Skelton bagged the opportunity at Hall-Fast.

Two special awards and prizes, each presented by Kamal Sharma and Dame Asha, went to students that particularly stood out from the rest.

Luiza Adamczyk, 18, from Ashfield School’s sixth-form, secured paid work experience in Accutor AG’s digital design team after delivering a presentation that, according to Mr Sharma, was “of a higher standard than many of the global companies we work with.”

The competition’s youngest member, 13-year-old Jack Harris, a Year 8 pupil at the school, scooped paid work experience with West Notts’ design team after impressing Dame Asha with his role in producing an advert that “many professionals would be envious of.”

Praising all of the competitors, Dame Asha said:

“The team-work, creativity, innovation and use of technology displayed by the students was very impressive indeed. I’ve seen things that professionals are unable to produce. Above all, this competition has brought about huge benefits to the students’ learning experience and their development as individuals.”

Mr Sharma said:

“For people of this age to have this level of confidence already is absolutely brilliant. I’ve been really impressed with the talent on show, and with Luiza’s presentation in particular. I’ve watched countless professional teams delivering presentations in the corporate world and, in my opinion, Luiza has done better than many of them. As a young student, her use of modern technology and articulation of content was exemplary.”

Business curriculum manager Nicola Beech said:

“Each year, thousands of students leave education with the same business qualification so it’s vital they stand out from the crowd. Through this challenge, team members have demonstrated their ability to apply knowledge to real-life situations. This will aid university applications and show potential employers they have the experience and capability to do this in future business roles, which gives them a valuable edge.”

West Nottinghamshire College provides education and training to some 30,000 full- and part-time students across all major industry sectors and at pre-GCSE to university level.

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