Thirty Year 10 pupils learned about both the highs and the lows of entrepreneurship in a “phenomenal” interactive workshop.
Their challenge was ostensibly to beat their classmates by building the tallest free-standing tower out of marshmallows and spaghetti – but the whole exercise was really a simulation for running a start-up company.
The boys had to negotiate ever-changing rules and regulations, cope with financial ups and downs, and even overcome natural disasters, all of which gave them valuable insights into what entrepreneurship actually involves.
Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “It was a fun simulation which the boys found tremendously enjoyable, but the overarching purpose was serious indeed: we wanted to get them thinking about all the different aspects of managing a business and to give them the chance to explore and practise skills of entrepreneurship.
“The world of work continues to evolve, such that start-ups and project work abound. Promoting the competencies needed to thrive in such a context, including effective planning, teamwork and communication, is an important element of our programmes supporting careers education and employability skills.”
The workshop was led by Makyth Ventures, an entrepreneurship hub established by Winchester College. Among those involved is the new Bursar at Winchester, Paresh Thakrar, who is an Old Elizabethan – he left QE in 1993 – and has established a connection with Mr Bonham-Carter.
During the morning, while they constructed their towers, the boys worked in teams to buy in not only raw materials, but also expertise. Through the session, things changed rapidly, with opportunities arising to pitch for investment (thus providing more money with which to purchase materials), pay for consultancy, purchase insurance and to forge joint ventures with other teams.
Challenges included storm damage – forcing participants to understand the extent to which their insurance covered their business – changes in building regulations and specifications, and the vicissitudes of the wider economic situation.
The afternoon session was an extended debrief, in which the various issues and strategies were discussed to draw out lessons that could be applied in real-world situations.
One of the boys involved, Pavan Kovuri, said he had expected only a “mundane PowerPoint slideshow” but had been pleasantly surprised: “I personally thought the workshop was phenomenal and an extremely enjoyable, practical, hands-on experience.
“The main tasks were making sure we had a stable building and had a sufficient amount of money left over. We had to choose carefully where to invest and especially had to focus on the decisions we made.”
Pavan said his main ‘takeaways’ from the workshop were:
- Ask questions. No matter how stupid they might seem, ask them. It’s better to ask it now and maybe even be ridiculed; if you don’t, you will regret it later, and at that point, it might even be too late.
- Some people will aim to bring you down. There are going to be obstacles in your way. There’s always going to be something, but it’s the way you react to it and how you deal with it that decides if you’re going to make it.
- Finally, just think outside the box, be patient, wait, stay organised, and coordinate. Being an entrepreneur is hard, but if you push through and work as a team without belittling others as you seek ‘to pick up the pennies’, you will succeed.
The workshop facilitators from Makyth Ventures pronounced themselves highly impressed at the approach of the boys and their effectiveness in the simulation.