A group of Year 11 students from Plymstock School in Plymouth travelled to London to visit The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on 21st November to raise the profile of their social enterprise, Our Way, as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
The students took to the West London address with enthusiasm and a professionalism that would have been considered beyond their years. However, the students were not there in their traditional capacity – they were there as entrepreneurs, and successful entrepreneurs, as the day later revealed.
Our Way formed in January 2013, when Schools Consultants from the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) worked with a group of previously Year 10 students to see how foreign language and business skills could operate outside the classroom. The students decided to design a social enterprise that would forge and encourage international partnerships through the development and cross-continent trading of various products through partnerships with local South West businesses, including The Cornish Crisp Company, Bloomberry Juice, Blue Horyzon, Sarah Drew and the Traditional Surf Company.
BIS were first introduced to Our Way students earlier this year, when RIO’s Director Lindsey Hall arranged for them to meet with Lesley Batchelor, the Institute of Expert Director General and the then Head of Enterprise Education and Culture, Joanna Hill.
Lesley Batchelor went on to say, “The creativity and business savvy of the students has set me wondering how powerful it would be if small companies across the UK sought out opportunities in towns across the world which are twinned with the places they live.
The students were then offered a platform to retail during Global Entrepreneurship Week. The students made a strong impression on some key people within the Department, as well as an MP for South West Devon, Gary Streeter, who stopped at their stall in the BIS office to purchase some of their wonderful jewellery, one of many different items being traded.
The Our Way students were blown away by the support from both BIS and Gary Streeter, and the many other relationships they have formed over the last year.
Maggy Dabska from Our Way said, “This was one of the best times of my life. Working with both Plymstock School and RIO has made me realise my potential and it’s made me seriously think about my career options too!”
The young students from Plymstock School were also just announced as the winners of the ‘International Market Builders’, at an awards evening held that same day in Plymouth, as part of the week-long festival.
Ed Whitelaw, the Coordinator for Plymouths Social Enterprise City Festival said: “Their award was a real highlight of the eight day festival for me. For projects to be truly successful, they need to be lofty, ambitious and inspirational as well as being practical and impactful. Few projects really ever achieve this in the way that Our Way has.”
With their clear business plan and embedded social entrepreneurial values, Our Way has already made leaps and bounds of progress. With a very strong identity; they will be looking to work with many more partners, local businesses and advocates who share their vision for the South West and international trade in the future, and if yesterday was anything to go by, things really are looking very exciting for everyone involved.