Young guns battle to be best in the business

Back from left, Jasmine Gandhi, Isabel McLennan, Georgina Baird, Olivia Herring, Caroline Harper-Donnelly, Joanne Rose, front seated, from left, Asmithaa Prabhakaran, Annabel Bennett, Isabel Yue and Lily Zhong

Back from left, Jasmine Gandhi, Isabel McLennan, Georgina Baird, Olivia Herring, Caroline Harper-Donnelly, Joanne Rose, front seated, from left, Asmithaa Prabhakaran, Annabel Bennett, Isabel Yue and Lily Zhong

First published in Business The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Business Editor. Call me on 01865 425460

Scores of young entrepreneurs are gearing up to have their business skills tested by the public.

A total of 20 companies set up by teenagers from schools across the county will be taking part in the Young Enterprise trade fair at the Templars Square shopping centre in Cowley on Saturday. Each will be trying to sell as many of their products as possible ranging from pop art T-shirts to dog collars in a bid to boost their fledgling businesses and be in line to win an award from Young Enterprise organisers on the day.

One of the companies is Ink, run by 12 Year 12 students from Oxford High School. They have created an interactive children’s cookbook, Read, Watch, Cook, that contains QR codes that can be scanned with a mobile telephone or tablet and linked to a video demonstration.

Finance director Isabel Yue, 17, said: “We didn’t just want to buy a product in and re-sell it. We decided to produce a cookbook and put our own twist on it.”

The team managed to write, photograph and film material for the hardback book using their own recipes and family favourites in just 10 days before sourcing a printer to run off 500 copies.

Already 130 have been pre-sold at £8 each and now the focus is on Cowley to raise more money which will be ploughed into a second cookbook – this time for students.

Ms Yue added: “We want to encourage family cooking at a young age and help young people learn to look after themselves when they leave home.”

Meanwhile, 24 girls from the School of St Helen and Katharine in Abingdon have already set a new school record for Young Enterprise despite being among the youngest in the competition.

The Chez Moi team, some of whom are as young as 14, have drummed up sales totalling more than £1,000 since launching last September – more than any St Helen’s team at this stage in previous years.

The company produces chalk boards of different shapes, refurbished school desks and lavender hearts using home-grown lavender.

Team member Lucy Davies, 14, from Abingdon, said: “It is great fun because it is a real business, not something that has been made up in the classroom. We are gaining good business experience and we are talking to smaller local retailers and chains such as Cath Kidston and WH Smith to stock our products.”

So far the team has generated its turnover from Christmas fairs in a range of schools and the Cowley trade fair will be a new challenge in a competitive retail environment.

Ms Davies added: “We are really excited about Cowley and we think we can go all the way in the competition.”

Young Enterprise involves youngsters setting up and running their own companies over the course of an academic year. This year, 33 companies have signed up from 26 schools across the county involving more than 500 students.

Companies will be judged on various business aspects while a high profile mystery shopper will be assessing their overall performance.

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