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Aspiring entrepreneurs go head-to-head

The Willink team's hoodies for mental health emerge overall winners of West Berkshire Young Enterprise Company final

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas


01635 886639

Aspiring entrepreneurs go head-to-head

A GROUP of aspiring entrepreneurs from The Willink School, Burghfield, were crowned overall winners of the West Berkshire final of Young Enterprise Company Programme last week.

The team of seven pupils were rewarded for their contemporary range of smart hoodies and T-shirts, which incorporated words promoting a greater understanding of mental health issues in teenagers and young adults.

The main design of the hoodies and T-shirts focused on an empowering word printed down the sleeve, such as ‘power’ and ‘energy’, designed to motivate the wearer.

Young Enterprise (YE) is the largest business and enterprise education charity in the UK, helping 250,000 young people learn about business and the world of work in the classroom with a network of volunteers and companies.

Some 150 students, teachers and local businesspeople gathered at Arlington Arts, Snelsmore, for the final, which celebrated the talent of aspiring young businessmen and women across West Berkshire.

Guest speaker Warren Richmond with team Siesta from Downe House

The Willink was joined by teams from St Bartholomew’s, Theale Green and St Gabriel’s schools and four from Downe House, with each showcasing the products from their companies, which were all self-launched in September. 

A judging panel, led by Mike Farwell of accountant and business adviser group James Cowper Kreston, evaluated the presentations as the final part of a thorough review of each business and quizzed teams over their marketing and finance strategies.

Products on show included silver jewellery, tealight holders, coasters made from locally-sourced, environmentally-friendly materials, beanies and loungewear trousers, portable chargers and pamper boxes.

Team Montague, from St Gabriel’s, claimed a trio of awards, including Best Business Plan, Best Company Report and Best Presentation as they finished as runners-up.   

St Bartholomew’s pupils from team DMND bagged the award for the best Trade Stand, while team Edge from Downe House claimed the Best Marketing prize. 

Team Montague from St Gabriel's were runners-up

Silva Deco, from Bartholomew’s, won the Most Innovative Product accolade for their sell pressed flower coasters, wooden tea light candle holders and glass potted cacti. 

However, it was team Alto from The Willink which scored highest among the judges, winning the Dragons’ Den Award as well as being crowned the overall winners.

Jordan Curtis, 17, managing director of the company, believes the success of their hoodies to date will help overcome the stigma surrounding mental health. 

He said: “Attitudes will change because people in society will be more willing to speak up about this topic.

“It’s better to ask for help than to not say anything at all.

“We feel we have done that successfully [through the hoodies] and will continue to do that.”

Speaking generally about how they had benfitted from YE, Mr Curtis said: “What we have is better negotiation and communication skills with suppliers, as well as the belief and passion to strive for what we believe in when others doubt what we are trying to achieve.”

The team chose the name Alto because it means loud or height in Spanish – and they want all teenagers to feel ‘alto’ when they wake up in the morning, despite any setbacks they may face in their day-to-day lives.  

The guest speaker, Revium Group chief executive Warren Richmond, whose first experience of business was as a young student in Reading participating in the Young Enterprise at school.

Mr Richmond delivered an animated speech, recalling his experience of the scheme, telling students never to give up when things knock them back. 

The chairman of Newbury and West Berkshire Young Enterprise Board, Burnie Owens, hailed the event as a “positive and uplifting” evening.

He said: “It was great to see nine teams of young people using a high level of skill and determination to develop and market products.

“I was also impressed that they were developing values in their companies, addressing areas such as mental health and sustainability.

“I am sure that their introduction to business via Young Enterprise will stay with them a long time.”

Teams Alto and Montague will now progress to the county finals, to be held on May 1.

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