Last week was a very busy week for the student business as they had the area heats taking place at the Bristol and Bath Science Park in Emersons Green on Thursday.
The area heats were the chance for the 12 Young Enterprise teams in the Bristol area to showcase their product to a trio of judges but also present their business journey, successes and learnings in front of a panel of Dragons.
Phonic Farm spent the week preparing for the heats with various meetings being held to finalise stand design, prepare and rehearse their Dragons Den pitch but also swot up on the company report before the big team interview.
With the stand design finalised and the Dragons Den pitch perfected, Thursday hit, and the students were busy running around the school to get everything collected.
As they received a lot constructive feedback from the Cribbs Causeway trade fair, the students wanted to make the stand as child friendly as possible. The idea they decided on was a ‘Phonic Farm marketplace’ design which incorporated learning and fun. To make this marketplace, the students required a lot of elements from the Primary Phase including a large Ikea unit with wooden baskets, a child size shopping trolley and a child’s cash register. As the Primary Phase needed these items to play and learn with over the course of the week, we had to take them at the very last minute.
After a very interesting afternoon of collecting the items, the students managed to get everything they needed and squish it into my car (by squish I mean half of the unit hanging out of my little corsa!). With this done, we were off!
The students and I arrived at the Science Park on time ready to get in and set up the stand. After a good 45 minutes, the students had managed to get everything from my car and for the first time see their ‘Phonic Farm marketplace’ stand in all its glory. As we didn’t have access to all the elements until the day, it was very much a matter of making it up and seeing what happens!
The result was fantastic. The stand was full of colour, fun and Phonics. They incorporated bunting, drawers which had the 7-different pick n mix items in at child friendly heights, clear labels for each drawer, a ‘chalkboard’ price list, instructions about their purchasing process and a little shopping trolley (with duck teddy in the seat) to tie the whole market feel together.
The Phonic Farm marketplace stand with some of the company’s directors behind. From right to left we have Thomas Wheatly (Finance Director), James Thomas (Operations Director), Lily Whyler (HR Director), Billy Wilde (Managing Director) and Nicholas Mitchell (CSR Director).
Whilst Phonic Farm were setting up, so were the other student businesses and it was clear to see that we had some serious competition to contend with.
As soon as the clock hit 4pm, the competition started. The 12 teams, were divided into 2 groups, the first heading into their Dragons Den pitch and the second being judged on their trade stand. Phonic Farm were in group 1 meaning the long wait to be called to the Dragons Den began.
During this time, there were a lot of people milling around the Science Park and all of those who were, were so impressed at the visual impact of Phonic Farm’s stand as well as the product innovation. It was great to receive such great feedback – you could see how much this boosted the student’s confidence.
30 minutes later, Billy, Tom and Lily were collected by one of the Young Enterprise board members and taken to the Dragons Den pitch. 15 minutes later, they came out with massive smiles on their faces. It has clearly gone well! The rest of the team, as expected then asked them to re-cap what had gone on. They explained that the pitch went well even though they over ran slightly and that afterwards they were asked a lot of questions about their learnings, finances and overall experience to date. The team were delighted to hear how positively their pitch was received – it gave them another confidence boost which kept them going for the rest of the evening.
The evening continued with a small food break between the two groups where the students were very happy as they received free Krispy Kreme doughnuts for their efforts.
As soon as all the doughnuts disappeared (which as you can expect wasn’t too long!) the second round of judging commenced. This time, it was Phonic Farm’s turn to be judged on stand appearance. This was a big part of the competition for the students as they had so drastically changed their stand layout after the feedback at the Cribbs Causeway trade fair.
There were three trade stand judges in total, each of them coming around to the stand at different times and with different questions. It was up to the students to always be on hand as it wasn’t clear who was the judge and who wasn’t.
Once the judges approached the stand, they made themselves clear to the students. Each time, the students presented themselves well and fully explained the product. The trade stand judges always had a smile on their faces when talking with the students, which was fantastic as you could see they liked the product, explanation and all the effort the students had made to make it child friendly.
As soon as the judging was over, it was a long wait to hear the results. As it was a heats round, only 8 of the 12 teams could progress to the Area Finals at Kingsweston House on Wednesday 25th April.
Before you knew it, the moment came. All 12 teams were very anxious about finding out their fate. The names were read out in no particular order…firstly Bristol Free School, followed by Bath College, Badminton, Clifton High School, St Bede’s, Colston Girls School…at this point only 2 spaces were left, and we hadn’t been called. The students hearts started to race! With several strong teams still to be called, it was very tense. The 7th team announced were Brimsham Green and finally, Bradley Stoke were called. We made it through!
When the scores were revelled, Phonic Farm placed 3rd out of the 12 teams and by quite a margin. They received 269 points out of a possible 350. This was a fantastic achievement and the comments they received by the judges supported this. The Dragons commented that it was a ‘good solid business’ and that they ‘liked the idea of the story on the back of the recipe sheet’. The trade stand judges couldn’t have had higher praise for them – they said that it was an ‘excellent idea to aid kids and have a fun activity to go along with it’, that the display was ‘great’ and that they loved the ‘baskets to draw in the children & bright colours’. The judges commented on the students understanding and explanation of the products, they said how ‘passionate’ each of them were about the business and how well they worked together as a team. They also mentioned how Billy, as Managing Director gave them ‘clear leadership and roles across the business’. Overall, they loved the product and idea saying how ‘interactive’, ‘engaging’ and ‘creative’ it was and that it has a lot of promise to ‘evolve in the future’.
It was such a successful evening and both Clare and I are very proud of the team for doing so well. The night and comments from the judges truly reflect the hard work the students have put in. Next stop the Area Finals – fingers crossed we do well to then progress onto the South West regionals in June.