Usaid (15) is a keen environmentalist, so when he took part in Enterprise Challenge Pakistan, it’s not surprising that his team’s business idea had a green angle – using an online platform to recycle and sell second-hand clothing from Pakistan.
‘I came up with this idea from my experience of getting older,’ explains Usaid. ‘It’s an experience we all share. As you grow up, you grow out of your clothes, the sleeves get too short or whatever. I thought, why should these clothes go to waste? We can make use of these clothes for poorer people in society.’
Usaid explains that while many people already pass on used clothing to those less well off, many are resistant to receiving charity and the unique element to his team’s idea is that customers, drawn mainly from poorer families, would be able to scroll through the available clothing via a dedicated online platform, and choose for themselves which items to buy.
‘Being green was an important element to the idea. By recycling the clothes we’d reduce waste. Otherwise many items would just get burned, buried or dumped.’
Enterprise Challenge Pakistan is a joint initiative from Prince’s Trust International and SEED Ventures. Now in its fifth year, the programme enables small teams of school students to learn practical business skills through coaching, mentoring and an online business simulation game.
Each team then goes on to develop and pitch their own business idea to a panel of judges, with an emphasis on innovative ideas that address a modern societal, environmental or economic problem.
‘Our mentor was Mr Waqar. We learned a lot from him,’ recalls Usaid. ‘He taught us about the difference between a businessman and an entrepreneur. A businessman works for profit but has no new ideas of his own… An entrepreneur is someone who has a new idea that solves a problem.’
The business simulation game has always been digital, but in 2020, because of coronavirus, the entire programme had to shift online, including much of the course content, each team’s weekly sessions with their mentor, and the students’ eventual business pitches.
‘We had to generate a PowerPoint presentation and a video explaining our pitch,’ remembers Usaid, explaining that this was his favourite part of the whole programme. ‘We had a lot of fun, we laughed and did retakes. I really enjoyed it.’
Enterprise Challenge Pakistan is the largest inter-school business competition in the country, with a prize of £3,000 at stake for the winning team to get their business idea off the ground. Usaid’s team was one of just ten to reach the national finals. The other finalists included enterprises aimed at reducing food waste, mental health support for teenagers, recycling plastic into sports equipment and – the eventual winners – an online e-commerce platform to connect home-based traditional craftspeople with customers further afield.
Although his team didn’t win, Usaid is clear that the skills he’s developed – particularly problem solving and creative thinking – will stand him in good stead in the future, whatever path he takes.
‘I’ve known since I was small that I don’t want to do one job my whole life. If everyone thinks ‘I want a job’, then who’s going to be providing those jobs? That’s why it’s important for us to think about entrepreneurship. It’s the entrepreneurs who provide the jobs. They’re also important for the development of our country, because entrepreneurs have innovative minds.’