Having completed a series of entrepreneurial challenges throughout the autumn months, four Coleg y Cymoedd students joined 36 students from colleges around South Wales to put their commercial skills to the test by operating a number of pop-up Christmas market stalls in Cardiff city centre on Thursday (December 15th).
The ‘Trading Places’ initiative, which is run by First Campus and Big Ideas Wales, saw the budding entrepreneurs take over a unit in the Morgan Quarter and establish it as a festive marketplace in which to sell their own carefully selected products to the public.
The group of six joined participants from Coleg Gwent, Bridgend College, Cardiff & Vale College, St David’s College and The College Merthyr Tydfil, who were selected from 120 students at the Enterprise Skills Day event at Cardiff City Stadium last month. At the day-long training camp, the wannabe moguls impressed the judges with their keen business acumen, and all received training and mentorship from some of Wales’ most successful start-up entrepreneurs, many of whom serve as Big Ideas Wales Role Models.
It is hoped that the practical experience gained at the Enterprise Skills Day and Trading Places will give the college goers the confidence to explore entrepreneurship as a viable career option. In the two days leading-up to the trading day itself, the teams put together Dragons-Den style pitches to event sponsors, which determined the order in which they could pick product lines to sell. They then had to conduct market research, formulate a business plan and finalise their products for sale in the 24 hours leading up to trading day.
A UK award-winning project, Trading Places has also helped inspire a change in business strategy for the privately owned Morgan Quarter. It’s director, Rory Fleming, said: “We are extremely pleased to welcome back another group of young entrepreneurs for Trading Places, for what has been an another incredibly valuable day of trading – both in terms of revenue and life skills.
“Partly because of such initiatives, we’ve opened up a number of permanent short-term trading spaces in the Morgan Quarter, which we hope will meet the demand for a more fluid entrepreneurial climate.”
Martin Burgess, a participating student from Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “It’s been great to be part of Trading Places. Once I’ve completed my business course at college I want to set up my own restaurant, so the experience of running a business has been amazing.”
Lesley Cottrell, Enterprise Champion at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Trading Place is a fantastic initiative that gives our students the opportunity to experience every aspect of running a business, while also building interpersonal and communications skills that will serve them well in the future.”
Supported by NatWest and EE, the Trading Places initiative ultimately seeks to hone the ambitions of budding young entrepreneurs and act as a catalyst to turn business ideas into viable start-up opportunities. In the week leading up to trading day, both NatWest and EE ran a series of business workshops with participants in preparation. And on the day itself Natwest was on hand with its double-decker business bus, which served as a base of operations for the teams, as they monitored live sales data from the six pop-up shops.
Oliver Watts, Chairman of NatWest's South West and Wales Regional Board, said: “At NatWest we really want to motivate and inspire the next generation of business leaders and we are delighted to be working with all the partners led by First Campus to help find and develop the budding entrepreneurs that could potentially have a vital role to play in the future vitality of the Welsh economy.”
Tony Jenkins, Head of Planning at EE, added: “We are excited to be part of this amazing project for the 3rd year. It is already proven to be an incredible opportunity for our staff to engage with the local community and support the ambitions of both faculties and students.”
First Campus, the South East Wales Reaching Wider partnership, raises the aspirations and Higher Education awareness of learners through activities and workshops which take place at Higher Education institutions.
Big Ideas Wales forms part of the Welsh Government’s Youth Entrepreneurship Service. Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund it helps young people aged between 5 and 25 to develop business ideas and entrepreneurial talent.