Full marks for pupils who took #163;1 and turned it into #163;4,000

28th January 2011 at 00:00
Winners of the Micro-Tyco social enterprise challenge turn the most profit for charity

Any entrepreneur would be proud to turn a pound;1 investment into a profit of over pound;4,000 in a month.

For Bethan Malley, Robyn Conlan, Olivia Beaton, Stephanie Devine, Astrid Corkhill and Amna Assed, it was an even greater achievement. For when the girls multiplied their money thousandfold, they had just entered P7 at St Vincent's Primary in East Kilbride.

This week, they were announced as the winners of the Micro-Tyco social enterprise challenge, having raised the largest amount from an initial investment of pound;1, beating groups from secondary schools, a university and a recruitment firm.

The challenge was thought up and run by Mick Jackson, the founder of WildHearts, a charity that provides micro-loans to some of the poorest people in the world.

Eleven schools, two nurseries, the University of the West of Scotland and recruitment firm Search Consultancy all took part in the pilot, which was launched in South Lanarkshire in November last year. Mr Jackson handed out 64 loans of pound;1 to the teams and gave them one month to raise as much money as possible. Together, the 64 groups raised pound;12,516. This will be used to provide small loans for people in developing countries, enabling them to start their own businesses.

Eileen Tomkins, head of St Vincent's Primary, said the girls wanted to get involved after hearing Mick Jackson talk about the work of WildHearts. Her P7 pupils were the only group in the competition who thought to invest their money in other people, giving part of their first profit to other classes in the school to raise money for them, and even employing companies to carry out fundraising activities.

"I gave them two boxes of apples that were left over from the school disco," Ms Tomkins said. "Someone in the school had some chocolate, so they made chocolate apples and made pound;53 profit on the first day."

With the support of their classmates, families and friends, they continued to come up with innovative ideas to increase their profit.

"We had so many ideas. We had meetings at lunchtime; we had notebooks we wrote in every day and we made a timeline," said Robyn.

Bethan added: "It was not just us, it was the whole school. Me and Olivia did a talk to the parent council. It was about sharing our vision."

They persuaded one parent, a chef, to prepare food they could sell; one child's grandmother knitted panda hats; and one mother baked cupcakes. "We offered to pay for the ingredients, but she didn't want the money," said Robyn.

Over the course of the month, they sold chocolate apples to a visiting primary school, recorded and sold a CD of Christmas carols, made calendars, held sales at their parents' evening and a local church, and recruited the salesmen of their local Phoenix Honda dealership to first of all organise a sponsored swim, and then help them buy a used car, which they then sold at a car auction for a healthy profit. The boys in their class organised a football tournament. It was, in Ms Tomkins's words, "Micro-Tyco mania".

The pupils were motivated by the desire to help those less fortunate than themselves. Bethan said: "If you look around our school, we have so much, and schools in Africa don't have anything like that."

They all believe they have learnt a lot from the project. Robyn said: "I learnt selling stuff, advertising and speaking in public." Olivia added: "I have learnt quite good marketing skills and advertising, and I think that will be quite good for business studies in high school."

Mick Jackson says members of the business community are astonished by the project: "They look like something out of Tom and Jerry - their jaws drop and their eyes pop out. I tell them I gave out 64 pound;1 loans, and four weeks later I got pound;12,500 back. They just have this stunned look of disbelief, and the next thing they say is, `but how did they do it?', and the third thing, inevitably, is, `do they want a job?'"



Following the successful pilot, Micro-Tyco will start again in September and is set to become an annual event. This time, schools across the UK will be able to compete with multi-national organisations from around the world. Corporate teams from Australia, Hong Kong and New York have already signed up.

Again, teams will be given a loan of pound;1 and left to raise as much money as they can.

"That pound is a symbol of resources, it is a seed. You have to bring it to life with your inner resources, your confidence, your inner sense of what is possible, your drive," said founder Mick Jackson.

All profits will be used to provide loans for those in need, especially women, who will then be able to fund their own businesses.

Mr Jackson said Micro-Tyco would turn children into adults who not only believe in their own abilities, but also understand the importance of helping the disadvantaged to help themselves.

Schools interested in taking part can sign up on the WildHearts website, www.wildheartsinaction.org.

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