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Young Enterprise – inspiring young people

By Catherine Jenkins

I spent a really enjoyable evening last week at Arlington Arts, based at the Mary Hare School. This time I wasn’t watching superb theatre, dance or listening to a favourite band – I went to listen to some inspirational young people.

Young Enterprise has always been close to my heart.  When I was at school far too long ago, my early dreams of being on the stage were scuppered when my father decided that taking a leading role in the local panto would be far too disruptive to my education (Boo Hiss!) Instead, second choice was teaching and this was my plan all the way through to Upper Sixth. Then I got involved in Young Enterprise. For those of you that don’t know, this is a UK charity that empowers young people to harness their personal and business skills. It makes the connection between school and the world of work, enabling young people to develop the knowledge and attitudes they need to succeed, building on key skills including communication, confidence, problem-solving and teamwork.  It is truly “hands on” as each group has to set up a business, assign job roles such as Sales Manager, MD, FD etc., go into production, market and sell the product and hopefully make a profit. I just loved it! The business didn’t make a great deal of money and we hit some major production issues when the polystyrene beads we were using to make our bean bags ran out and we couldn’t source any more. But we all learnt so much. I went on to attend the national finals and even met Valerie Singleton (now that will tell you how long ago this was!)

I can’t be sure that the experience I had all those years ago has a direct link to the fact that I’m now running MAXX, with my co-Directors, but it certainly sowed a seed in my mind.

The evening at Arlington Arts took me back so many years to relive the thrill of creating and selling something that people actually wanted to buy. These young people had enthusiasm and drive in bucket loads – there were some really original ideas and inspirational presentations. From cookery books aimed at first time Uni students to candles in recycled wine bottles and my personal favourite – bespoke healthy sports drinks and bottles from The Downs School. They key note address came from a successful young Newbury business-woman, Gabi Cox, who had founded her business Chroma Stationery in 2014 and which now enjoys regular orders from top brands such as American Airlines and Estee Lauder.

I’m proud that MAXX has been supporting Young Enterprise for several years now, as a business advisor and this year, Holly, our very own Communications Manager has been on the management committee, helping them with social media. We have a strong ethos of enabling young people to spring board into their careers – we have had three apprentices, the most recent, Gemma joined us as an admin apprentice and has just moved into our Digital Communications department to help with the ever-increasing request from our clients to help with website and social media conversion optimisation.  Holly started out as an intern and is now our working here permanently and Sam and Emily both joined us as Juniors in website development and graphic design respectively – but are now key members of TEAM MAXX, delivering work that we are proud to present to our clients.

Young people bring new ideas, new blood and new experiences – they deserve our encouragement, support and investment but most of all, they need us to believe in them because they are our future. When we get it right, then the future is truly bright.

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