Pupils at St James High School, Farnworth, run their own successful business
LORD Alan Sugar’s apprentices could learn a thing or two from the enterprising young people at St James’ CE High School.
Pupils at the Farnworth school have seen their business grow from a vending machine into a fully functional shop located in its own dedicated premises — and the not-for-profit business continues to thrive.
Manisha Sitpura, aged 15, who helps run the business, said: “The contestants on The Apprentice are not very organised and seem to fuss a lot rather than work together.”
There has been a drive nationally to encourage school and colleges to promote enterprise-related activities and entrepreneurial skills to enhance their employability prospects — and young businessmen and women at St James’ CE High School have been learning those skills on the job.
The business started back into 2009 by a group of five pupils when Rijo Coffee donated an out-of-service vending machine for an enterprise project. They put together a business plan, set about promoting the vending machine and set a stall out in a classroom at lunchtimes to sell stationery, Fairtrade products and handmade gifts under the trading name Vend-a-Spend (VAS).
Jayne Cunliffe, curriculum support co-ordinator, said: “Word quickly spread about VAS and the work they were doing, more and more pupils wanted to join. With such growth, they soon outgrew the table top and the idea of a shop came to life. This took much planning and several knock-backs, but eventually the hard work paid off. They got permission to share a small office at break and lunch time.
She added: “The team’s motto is to do something for nothing. None of them get any financial reward for their work, instead they benefit from gaining a wide range of skills including teamwork, financial capability and confidence while being able to give back by supporting the school’s charity work with regular donations.”
Mrs Cunliffe said: “With such a demand for school stationery and other essential items, such as hair bobbles, water bottles and footballs, the office room was never going to be big enough to allow any expansion. So this year saw the team take on their biggest challenge yet. They embarked on the idea of their own dedicated building, which they could buy themselves and be totally accountable for.”
After months of planning, meetings, presentations, funding applications including to the Farnworth Cash Panel and School Appeals Committee, letters for help and visits to companies, they finally found the right building for £2,800.
The building was delivered during the summer and was officially opened this month.
Mrs Cunliffe said: “The cabin will allow the team and business to continue to grow for years to come and it is all because of the commitment, hard work and doing something for nothing. The Vend-a-Spend journey continues.”
The group has grown to 21 members, with pupils from all-year groups and the team is sifting through 18 applications from young people who want to join the business.
The young entrepreneurs, who have sourced suppliers — including using Justicia in Bolton — are always thinking about how to take the business forward.
They have just started a laminating service, making and supplying bespoke badges to primary schools.
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