Petroc business students showcase their talent during the 2016 Enterprise Challenge

Over 200 business students from Petroc put their entrepreneurial skills to the test last month, as part of the Enterprise Challenge 2016.

In groups of five or six, the students from a wide range of Business courses, from Level 1 to Level 3, worked together to design and present a social enterprise idea of their choice. The learners were challenged to come up with a business plan that could make a real difference, socially, either locally or further afield.

As part of the challenge, students had to ensure their business proposal was sustainable and that the business would generate enough income to cover costs and allow it to grow.

Over the course of a week, the learners were able to listen to inspirational talks from local experts, including James Bradley from We Love Social and Stuart Brocklehurst from Applegate, to give them ideas, before going off into groups to plan their businesses. The groups then presented their ideas internally and the five strongest business plans were selected to be showcased in front of a panel of external judges.

The judging panel was made up of local experts from a wide range of industries, and included Sue Boundy from Cleveland Holidays, Jon Triggs from North Devon Council, Steve Tricker from Blue Soup, Wendy Johnson from Brewer, Harding and Rowe and independent advisor, Rob Simpson. The head judge was Earl Napier, the Local Policing and Partnership Inspector for Barnstaple. Diane Dimond, Principal at Petroc, was also on the judging panel.

Each group had 15 minutes to present their ideas and answer questions from the judges, and were scored in a number of different categories to determine an overall winner.

The winning team – Group 4 – devised an app called ‘My Pet Rock.’ The app was specifically designed to help students dealing with mental health issues, and included a number of functions including mindfulness activities and a sleep tracker.

Speaking to all the finalists, head judge, Earl, said: “To get to this stage is a massive achievement. You have all put so much time and effort into this project and I have been incredibly impressed by each and every idea.

“I was particularly interested in the students’ app idea. In my role I am always looking at ways to engage with and support the local community, and I think the app has huge potential to help a lot of people both locally and further afield,” added Earl.

Marie Gould, Petroc’s curriculum lead for business, administration and route to employment, organised the challenge alongside her team. She said: “Events like this give students the opportunity to think about how they can apply their new-found skills to the world of work. It looks great on their CV and really improves their confidence.

“I couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of our students. They all worked extremely hard to research and prepare for their presentations and the business ideas that they came up with in the short time are just incredible.”

Toni Hill, a Level 1 business student, was part of the winning team. She said: “We worked really well together, and used each other’s strengths to build our business idea. We drew on our own knowledge and experiences, and I think this passion must have come across in our presentation.”

As part of their prize, the team will receive a £300 start-up fund to help turn their business into a reality. They will also have the opportunity to receive mentoring from Dirk Rohwedder, Director of the Dartington Social Enterprise Hub.