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At one Shropshire school a desire to instil business acumen into young students goes beyond discussing theory in the classroom. Girls at Moreton Hall get a dose of the real world by running their own mini shopping empire
Charlotte Eyre picks up a novelty necklace adorned with a large, garishly coloured doughnut pendant. This, she reveals, was my worst decision as a stock buyer. I thought the doughnuts were a lot smaller than they are. But they are selling, particularly to younger girls, so I guess it wasnt a total disaster. In fact, within a month of our interview they had sold out completely.
Then there was the time, she says, when the entire premises flooded after a pipe burst when most staff had left for the day. It was all hands to the pumps - the entire year turned out from their boarding houses to help. We were wading through the water at one point to rescue stock but everyone got stuck in with mops and buckets and we got it sorted. We coped with it and that made us feel very good about ourselves.
But these are clearly minor hiccups in an otherwise wonderful success story for the teenager-run business empire known as Moreton Enterprises.
Moreton Hall, near Oswestry, is an academically non selective day and boarding school for girls. It regularly tops the national table for added value (the extent by which pupils progress academically during their time at the school), achieves excellent results at GCSE and A level and is also hailed for its sporting, music and art facilities and prowess. It also works hard to be a true friend of the local community, hosting community events and sharing its facilities and expertise.
Students know they are privileged to attend this magnificent school. They also demonstrate, to a girl, a powerful commitment to make the most of the wonderful opportunities afforded to them. Nowhere is this
more evident than through the enterprise initiative.
A current director is lower sixth former Millie Adams-Davies. Aged 16, she took up the reins in September from Charlotte, one of the 2010/11 directors.
We, the students, do it all on a voluntary basis, outside of lesson time. The teachers are available to support us and oversee the operation but they are like a silent business partner - we negotiate the deals, organise the day to day running of the premises, man the tills, stock the shelves, make sure the books are balanced and plan our marketing and sales strategy. Its incredibly rewarding to know that people trust us to do the right thing and its a wonderful preparation for life beyond education, she said.
Last year the business turned over an incredible 50,000. Every penny is ploughed back in - new for 2012 will be an e-commerce online sales operation and redeveloped website, with local Welsh Black beef and
local lamb among the new
The business is run from a purpose-built on-site shopping centre, which features a new Rymans stationery store, mini branch of Barclays Bank, a smoothie bar, tuck shop, coffee bar and outlets selling jewellery, bags and gifts.
Said Millie: We have a team of girls now who want to develop the e-commerce site and embrace modern technology. Our predecessors left the business in great shape so now we have to take up the baton and move the business on again.
The enterprise initiative is run as a voluntary scheme, so much of the girls free time is devoted to it. Each year directors are selected from applicants from across Upper Fifth, and they will be in charge for a year before moving up to Upper Sixth and their vital exam year. As Millie testifies, its a great honour to be selected to lead the team. I love it so much, its a pleasure and a privilege. And of course it looks good on an UCAS form or CV.
Added Charlotte: Its completely opened my eyes to the trials and joys of being in business. The skills of delegating and of making final decisions can only really be learned properly in a real-life environment. There is quite a lot of trial and error and this is a great, safe place to learn.
Now on the other side of the counter, the most important lesson Charlotte has learned? The art of good communication. We are dealing regularly with suppliers and customers and have to be able to communicate so they treat us as equals, not children. We do not reveal we are at school - we simply introduce ourselves as directors of Moreton Enterprises and get treated like any other business manager. I dont think we are, nor do I expect us to be, treated any differently from any other business.
Former alumni are testament to the success of the scheme: the likes of Laura Edwards, marketing director of SAB miller; Zanny Minton-Beddoes, global economics editor for The Economist; Pippa Court, director at Burberry; and Miranda Ballard, founder of flourishing organic meats company Muddy Boots all got their first taste of business at Moreton Hall.
The school is currently looking for more local businesses and mentors who might want to offer their expertise or who might want to consider a link-up with Moreton Enterprises. If you think you have something to offer, please contact the school via the website www.moretonhallschool.com or telephone 01691 773671.
Moreton Hall headmaster is Jonathan Forster. The school caters for about 390 girls, most of them boarders.
Last year it enjoyed its best ever examination results and was the highest ranked non selective independent school nationally for GCSE results and 41st nationally for A Level results. Fees are approximately 7,465 a term (day) 9,115 (boarding).