What a way we have come!

In October 2015 I was afforded the opportunity to become the Managing Director of a Young Enterprise company, offered to be by the Head of Business studies within my school.  In our initial meeting 8 students from multicultural backgrounds to include Polish, Lithuanian, African and Portuguese stood together, looking at each other with, genuinely, no idea what we were doing or how we would achieve it!  From humble beginnings until the end of our journey it is hard to believe that we are the same people.  Each one of us is now, truly unrecognisable and, for the better!

With the help and expertise offered to us by YE, and from our HSBC business advisors I was able to lead my team through the research and development stages of what we whole heartedly believed would be and incredible product to bring to market, one which would bring hope and joy to young children and their families, and one which would motivate an inspire an already driven group of young students; and so Enlighten Hope was born!

Organically we felt we fell into every that a Social Enterprise epitomised since our primary aim wasn’t to make a profit, but to affect the lives of others and for the better!  We wrote, illustrated and published a series of children’s short stories with a view to helping young cancer patients to cope with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  Our books were based on the real life story of our teacher’s baby niece so we knew that our product would hold significant relevance to our target market.

We were inundated with business support; multiple charities, hospitals, schools and libraries bought into our product.  PR soon followed from local newspapers, radio stations and even TV. Within 6 months of trading we had sold 4,200 units generating a sales revenue of over £18,000.

One of our most notable achievements was the emails and messages of thanks that we received from parents who had bought our books for their children.  One parent contacted us to tell us how she was using our books to explain to her children where mummy’s hair is going as a result of her own journey with chemotherapy following her own cancer diagnosis!

Greater than being a young entrepreneur, we know we have been provided with an opportunity to make our mark on society, to leave our footprint on the hearts of others.  We are immensely proud; and hugely grateful to both our school and to Young Enterprise.

At the Northern Ireland finals in May, we were extremely nervous coming up to the winner being announced. We always had a great team spirit and were great support for each other at all times. Holding hands became the team’s tradition in overcoming obstacles. I remember gathering everyone together to hold hands, so that we are together win or lose. When Enlighten Hope was announced as the Winner 2016, the happiness and excitement we felt was immense. We jumped and screamed and the moment lasted forever!

Later in the year, we became the UK Company of the Year in July in Emirates Stadium – a win which hasn’t been brought back to NI for over 27 years! We could not believe it! We were overwhelmed with the sense of achievement, it was the happiest moment in our history! From here we were afforded the opportunity to travel to Switzerland in late July to represent the whole of UK at the European Finals; competing with 35 other countries. The competition was extremely stiff, and yet we, Enlighten Hope scooped third place at JA Europe 2016.  We were and continue to be elated with our achievements!

Speaking on behalf of my team, I can honestly say that the company programme has taught us more about education, business, skill set and qualities required for real-life and about making a contribution to society than a lifetime solely based in classroom learning could teach.

We have evolved as entrepreneurs and are more convinced than ever that ‘Learning by doing’ really is the best means of education! No theoretical material will ever provide the knowledge and understanding that we have gained this year.  I studied business for multiple years, but only through the company programme I learnt how the business world really works. Only for this amazing experience, my aspiration to study International Business with Spanish has been strengthened!

My own individual and personal journey has been very exciting also.  As a result of this experience I was awarded a further 3 individual awards to include: Entrepreneur of the Future award which enabled me to attend the Next Generation Leaders’ forum in Canada in August. NGL is a conference which connects young leaders from all across the globe to work on a business task.  It was a unique and extraordinary experience which I believe is one in a lifetime. It was amazing to learn from and work with likeminded peers. Not only I gained invaluable problem solving and leadership skills but also made lifelong friendships and travelled to a country to gain an experience which most people only dream of! It was one of the most worthwhile experiences in my life which I am truly grateful for.

My second award was the title for “Most Inspirational Journey 2016” for the whole of Northern Ireland. Finally,  in Lucerne in July I received the Alumni Leadership Award Europe, awarded by AXA and which now affords me the opportunity to attend a business leader’s conference in Switzerland in November coming.

It has been a challenging year competing in this programme and working towards achieving A-levels, some might wonder is it possible to complete both successfully. My own results included 2 A*s and one A, our ICT director was the College’s highest achiever with her own combination of A* and A grades in 4 subjects and one of our team members brought her AS level results up by 2 grades per subject within one academic year. The entire team achieved 100% A* – C grades evidencing very clearly that good time management skills, drive and determination make everything possible.

A few words I would use to describe this past year with Young Enterprise would be; unforgettable, flourishing and most worthwhile!

 

Iveta Liovinaite, former Managing Director of Enlighten Hope