Savvy students in isolation use digital skills to win national prize

GREEN-fingered young entrepreneurs from Ripon Grammar School have come up roses after turning their enforced Covid-19 isolation into a triumph in a prestigious national competition.

With seven out of nine of the RGS Young Enterprise team confined to home at the time due to coronavirus regulations, the savvy sixth form students took the opportunity to showcase their digital skills and win first prize.

Having set up their company Bloomin’ Goods, which produces plastic-free planting kits for children, they worked together virtually on their entry through the school’s Microsoft Teams communication platform.

Despite stiff competition from schools throughout the country, Young Enterprise judges said the RGS pitch stood out and praised how the students had captured the importance of digital skills in the 21st century.

Their prize is five £200 tickets to the prestigious Web Summit, the largest tech conference in the world, where the global giants of the web will be assembling. Normally held in Lisbon, Portugal, this year it will be open exclusively to ticket holders online.

The students will have the opportunity to connect with tech industry leaders and policy makers such as Zoom founder Eric Yuan, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, chairwoman Gillian Tans, Apple vice-president Lisa Jackson, goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow, Google vice-president Kent Walker and Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer.

Bloomin’ Goods managing director Amy Burgess, 16, explained how, despite some members of the team having to isolate for up to two weeks, the students rose to the Young Enterprise competition challenge.

She said: “Our Company Board group picture had to be composed of individual photos taken at home, and we also had to plan our wording over Teams, emailing one another with information.”

Their pitch stressed how increasingly important digital skills are in the working world, especially in this period of isolation and lockdown, she said: “Throughout the process we are learning lots from each other, as we have achieved everything so far through drawing on our knowledge together as a team.”

Tapping into the trend for spending more time outdoors and in nature,

their kits aim to help teach children about how gardening can be fun, and to encourage them to cook healthy meals.

Amy says: “Our kits will contain all the items necessary to plant ingredients for specific recipes included in our boxes. We are encouraging children to plant and to cook, teaching them important skills and values in a fun way.”

Amy hopes the Bloomin’ Goods plastic-free planting kits will also help reduce food waste: “We chose children, and their parents, as the target market because they are the future, the ones who are going to have to make a difference.”

Currently developing their website, the students face a number of challenges: “The biggest so far is undoubtedly product development. We are having to do most of our market research within school, as due to lockdown we cannot go into shops or talk to the public. We have to find prototype parts online and get them delivered, which is difficult.”

Natalie Marshall of Young Enterprise said the RGS students provided excellent examples of how their team plans to develop their digital skills through social media, web design and online courses: “Their submission really captured the importance of digital skills and the prize now offers them a great opportunity to hear from and connect with entrepreneurs, start-ups and leading figures in the tech industry.”

*See Bloomin’ Goods on Twitter is @RGSyoungenterp1.

Pictured above and top: Amy, Thomas, Alice and Alex. Top, talking to a member of the team, Josh, via Teams

The Bloomin’ Goods team:

Amy Burgess - managing director

Ruby Chan - marketing director

Robyn Munday - operations director

Josh Simpson – human resources director

Alice Simmerson - co-finance director

Thomas Whitelegg - IT manager

Alex Gilhooley - co-finance director

Emma Bone - sales director

Matt Wyatt - sustainability director