Monique Graver is undertaking a college couse studying business and in this blog post explains how she tested her academic studies in a practical project pitching her ideas and then test trading at a Hackney Market as part of the Community Links Enterprise project.
‘What’s the BBaGA?’ you ask? – it stands for ‘Barrow Boys and Girls Academy’ and is the most unusual, but most rewarding activity I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in whilst at college.
So, I’m a second year college student at present, studying Business, Finance and Accounting; subjects that I can either love or hate depending on the task at hand and the delivery of the task. I’ve always loved business though, well ever since the realisation that I too can have my own business one day – they don’t teach us this at college. We get taught about business structures, profit and loss, the business environment, different aspects and takes on accounting, market research, recruitment etc. – and I get a bunch of assignment briefs sent my way. But on this particular Wednesday morning I entered my college’s main hall and prepared myself for what they call ‘The BBaGA’.
They started off with a small introduction and then the team from the Community Links enterprise project began to explain what I’d be doing today. In no time, I was put into a small group and together we began brainstorming ideas of potential products or services that we would actually retail on a London market. At first, no ideas came to mind, but after hearing suggestions from other team members, I too felt overwhelmed with the amount of ideas that came into my mind. The possibilities were endless but we had to choose the one great idea that could generate the most profit and was affordable within our £100 budget. There was still so much to think about – What do we call our company? What kind of product do we sell? Is the product practical affordable? Where do we purchase the resources from? How do me make a profit? What’s our break even figure and how do we work it out? Our budget, priorities, roles and responsibilities? How many units will we buy? (Or can afford?), Marketing? Promotion? do we have a unit selling price? (Product mark-up?) How would we be acquiring these things? And if so how will we prepare them or preserve them if perishable for the day at the market?
Our idea didn`t make a great deal of sense at this point but we couldn’t spend a lot of time trying to perfect it, as we had to present everything we’d come up with so far to a panel. Every member of each group had to get involved in the presentation despite the fact that some of us were stronger talkers than others.
I dislike talking in public; I couldn’t imagine how I’d manage to speak my part without stuttering or getting tongue-tied or sounding silly. My team had the best idea and I’d hate to be the one to let us down by not delivering on my part. This was a great exercise in teamwork, encouraging others and challenging yourself.
After rehearsing a few times, the BBaGA facilitators called our group out and we were lead out of the hall and into the classroom that I usually have my business lessons in coincidentally. Before any of us opened our mouths the judges sitting in a straight line in front of us wished us luck and told us to relax and speak clearly. At that moment the first speaker in our group began with the introduction. I thought five minutes of straight talking was unnecessary but when one of the judges stated that our time was up, five minutes really wasn’t long at all – luckily we’d reached the end of our pitch.
I had presented in the past for assignment purposes, but this time was different for me. The nerves I usually experience before talking to a group of people were still present, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to run home. I actually wanted to present our ideas and the competitor in me wanted our team to be chosen to sell at the market!
After answering the judge’s questions we made our way back into the hall to collect our belongings and go home.
A week later, my form tutor told me that we were put through to the next stage!
Suddenly, college and the Business, Finance and Accounting lessons I had been attending all year started to mean something. I was able to use all the knowledge I’d acquired when we next met to discuss and decide on all the important decisions that we didn’t necessarily think about during our first encounter.
We had a lot to decide together and the contrast in our personalities and opinions was challenge. We all learnt about cooperative and collective working listening, compromise. Eventually, with good communication and compromise, everything was sorted and a proper workable plan was laid out.
Finally the weekend we were all looking forward to arrived. We needed to put everything we had planned and discussed previously into practice and win this competition!
Selling was very slow at first but I put that down to the early morning crowd we were dealing with and the fact that we were all amateurs. It was business as usual at the market and we were fortunately located in the middle of the street, surrounded by regular market stalls. It wasn’t longer before we all started to mimic the way in which they communicate to the public (walking up and down the street promoting our product and product features) and sell their products (discounts, banter and honesty).
The BBaGA was fun a great learning experience, a chance to learn new skills, make sense of what you learn form day to day at college, build your confidence and tap into the entrepreneur within, so if you get a chance let your school or college get your class to Roll up! Roll up! and have the BBaGA bring enterprise to you.