School pupils get a taste of entrepreneurship with London Met's Big Idea Challenge

Over 100 students from London schools and colleges attended an enterprise ‘bootcamp’ at NatWest’s HQ as part of the Big Idea Challenge 2016.

Date: 9 March 2016

School and college pupils from across London are putting their business brains to the test as part of one of the UK’s biggest enterprise competitions.
Over 100 students from 10 schools attended the Big Idea Challenge bootcamp at NatWest’s Bishopsgate offices today (Friday 4 March) to develop their business ideas with expert mentors from a range of major brands including Microsoft, NatWest and Unilever.
The pupils have the chance to win mentorship, an internship and cash prizes in the competition, which is being run by Accelerator – London Metropolitan University’s business incubator, and London Met's Outreach, Events and Widening Participation Team. The winning team’s business idea will also be published on the Big Idea Challenge website.

Chris Kettle, Entrepreneurial Development Manager at NatWest, said: “As the UK’s biggest bank for start-ups and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprise), NatWest is committed to supporting entrepreneurs in a number of different ways including mentoring, business advice, and access to our support networks. For the first time ever, there are more than 5 million businesses in the UK, and 99% of them are SMEs. This demonstrates that there’s a huge desire by people to run their own business and become self-employed. We want to help entrepreneurs achieve their ambitions from an early stage and that’s why we’re delighted to be involved in the Big Idea Challenge.”
Building interest in running a business
Many of the students taking part are from low income and diverse backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the start-up world. This is an opportunity for them to be inspired, learn new skills and gain valuable experience,” says Toby Kress, Head of Accelerator.
“London Met is committed to giving young people the opportunity to change their lives for the better. And one of the most powerful ways to do this is to give them the tools to start their own business one day and take their destiny into their own hands.
“For those that dream of being entrepreneurs, this competition is an inspiration and the first step on the journey. Participants will work with experienced mentors to develop their ideas and a pitching coach to learn how to communicate and get people excited.
“There will also be a public vote for the winner so all of the finalist teams will have pitch videos made for them that will go on the Big Idea Challenge website, giving them a platform to be noticed and a way to demonstrate what they’ve accomplished when applying to universities or jobs.”
Global Teddy
One of the ideas developed by a team from Redbridge College is Global Teddy, a teddy bear with a tablet inside to help children learn many different languages. The tablet will be removable so the child can use the software as they grow older.
Pupil Lolade Amunikoro, from the Redbridge team, said the day was “even better than we expected.”
“It’s a good opportunity to work with mentors who will help you develop your idea.”
“Our mentor was incredibly helpful and gave us a lot of new things to think about when developing our idea,” Lolade added.
Another team from Newham Sixth Form College pitched their idea of Plaistow Youth Market, which aims to develop young entrepreneurs’ ideas.
Yasseen Yousuf, from Newham Sixth Form College, said he has learned new skills which he will use in the future.
“The event is well organised. I’ve learned skills such as pitching which I will take forward with me.”
How did students find the experience?
Students Mariam Haji and Geirthana Nesathurai, from Hackney Community College, said the session gave them confidence and helped them to break down their ideas.
“We weren’t sure what to expect but we have had mentoring and help to develop our ideas,” said Mariam. “I’ve learned what goes into making a business pitch successful and it has given me confidence going forward.”
The morning session consisted of an ice breaker exercise, followed by each team working with their mentor on their idea and how to pitch successfully. There was also a session given by Toby Kress on the business canvas model, which is the template start-up businesses use.
Students pitched their ideas in the afternoon session, with the finalists going into an online vote on the Big Idea website on 21 March.
The winner will be announced at the Big Idea Challenge awards night on 28 April
Each team had their own mentor from companies such as Microsoft, Unilever and NatWest as well as start-ups Infinity Health, Urban Things, Zealify, DisruptsUK and Lucidica.
One mentor was the founder and CEO of Lucidica, Tom Jeffs, while another was founder and CEO of Zealify, Lauren Hine.

Students at Natwest HQ