Meet 2015 UK Company of the Year Winner – team Orenda
Maddie Hicks and Alice Lassman on behalf of Orenda explain their journey on the Young Enterprise Company Programme, their experience of winning the UK Final and representing the UK in the JA Europe Final.
“ ‘Team Orenda!’ We jumped out of our seats wildly screaming. Some started crying, most of us trembling, all shaking our heads in disbelief. We stood there on stage half stifling a smile, sweating and bewildered, having no idea what had just happened. We were at the BFI, had just shaken hands with Glamour Editor Jo Elvin, taken a selfie with former Dragon Piers Linney, and hugged BBC Breakfast’s Steph McGovern. Was this really happening to us?
We’d won Young Enterprise.
No, I don’t think that phrase will ever truly sink in. Not receiving dozens of messages seconds after winning (thank you, twitter), not seeing our photo on the front page of Young Enterprise’s website, not seeing my face on BBC iPlayer the following day.
Let’s take it back to 9 months earlier, we were about to embark on a three-term journey of the Young Enterprise Company Programme, but we would’ve hardly guessed where our never ending hard work would take us. In fact, in our first session, aside from getting to know the loveliest of advisors, Sarah Starr, we were hypothesising about how far we could get – but when one team member announced we should get to Berlin, she was abruptly silenced.
Over our WhatsApp chat, we were discussing team names – think Episode 1 of The Apprentice. It was then that someone found Orenda, meaning the force within each of us that inspires us to do something, and we knew this embodied what we wanted. After hours of brainstorming, scribbling wildly on whiteboards and enthusiastically spurting out ideas, the Orenda team had finally been rendered speechless. In silence, each member stared at inanimate objects in the room. And then, it came. Whilst looking at a lone water bottle, our idea began to form. “How about a water bottle with a screwable snack container at the bottom?”. A few more hours of development and research later, the Sip ‘O’ Snack was formed.
Jumping from supplier to supplier on our bottle treasure hunt, we finally placed our first order and the arrival of our original product meant things couldn’t get much more exciting. Promoting and selling the bottles in the run-up to Christmas became our new mission.
“Remember guys, if we don’t get through, it’s great! That’s one less presentation for us to do” – it seemed like perfectly good logic, and somehow we made it through the first round. We were privileged enough to make it to KPMG in Watford, then Hertfordshire University…then Cambridge University. We couldn’t believe it every time we made it through, especially not after being presented with ‘Best Report’ at Watford and ‘Best Innovation’ at Hertfordshire. When they announced that we’d won Best Report, we grounded ourselves in our seats. Then Best Presentation. And somehow we wangled the Environmental Award. We’d completely given up any hope of getting through and yet…’Orenda!’ – we’d actually made it through to the National Finals of Young Enterprise. The shock still hasn’t really worn off.
We arrived in London and received some good news and bad news. Bad news: we would have to wake up at 4 the following morning. The mood in the room turned sombre. Good news: we had been picked as one of two teams to feature on BBC Breakfast. More shock. The following morning I was asked to explain our product – “great! Now just say that to 2.5 million viewers”. I’ve never felt so lucky, or excited, or nervous, or as in need of a tissue as I was those two days. An indescribable experience.
2 trophies later (three if you count the golden Mickey Mouse given to us by Disney…yes, you heard us right, a GOLDEN Mickey), it dawned on us that we were actually going to Berlin to fly the flag for the UK. On the 28th of July, Jaznique Arora, Leah Glater, Maddie Hicks, Alice Lassman and Maya Raichoora represented Orenda in the JA Europe finals, arriving in Berlin to a warm welcome before a volleyball tournament and barbecue dinner. We got to meet students from some of the 37 teams ahead of a few days of tough competition.
The next day was an early start and by lunchtime we had faced a panel interview with three of the judges. After lunch, we delivered our presentation to the other teams as well as the judges and special guests. The presentation was nerve-wracking but we managed to give a polished and professional presentation despite the large audience. This was followed by a traditional German dinner buffet in a beer house and a bus tour of some of Berlin’s most famous sights. Everyone enjoyed the food, dancing and bus tour after a long, tiring day.
Our last day saw us up early again to prepare our trade stand for the final part of the competition. We were interviewed at our stand by several sets of judges and had the chance to sell our bottles to the public and to other competitors. After a successful day, only the awards dinner and after party were left. We were delighted to walk away with the Citi Foundation Award for Remarkable Customer Service, while Alice and Maya won JA Alumni Leadership Awards. After a fantastic three course dinner and awards ceremony, all the teams enjoyed the after party, which was a perfect chance to spend time with people from other countries and enjoy the last few hours of the experience.
So where next? It’s been the most exciting and thrilling journey of our lives that, and we’re not just saying it, will be remembered forever. Endless thank yous to our advisor Sarah and teacher Mr Khan for everything you’ve had to put up with, and of course the best team anyone could’ve asked for. Meanwhile, what to do with the 200 Sip ‘O’ Snacks still in the attic…”