The Livery Academy Awards 2020: The Company Final

30 November 2020

Today, three school teams competed in the first ever Merchant Taylors' Company final for the Livery Academy Awards, an annual competition that challenges state school students to present a business idea to a panel of judges, asking for fictional investment to help get their business ideas operational. Following a 15-minute presentation, the teams answered quick-fire questions from the judges. The questions were designed to highlight the scope of vision of the students' ventures, as well as the depth of their planning.

This year, Foyle College, St Saviour's & St Olave's School and Wallingford School competed against one another to claim the prize, each school mentored by two Company members through the process. While the competition was stiff, and with excellent presentations from each of the schools, the judges ruled St Saviour's & St Olave's School victorious! Huge congratulations to the team, consisting of Alana, Holli, Calie, Kumba, Bilen, Tia-Jo.

Six girls from St Saviour's and St Olave's School

St Saviour's & St Olave's came up with a practical idea to create a business to support prisoners to develop a new skill-set which would help their employability on leaving prison. The school also hoped to prevent the high re-offending rate by offering a greater chance of employment and use some of the profits to support prisoners when they leave prison... Many congratulations to you for winning the Merchant Taylors' Livery Awards heat and good luck in the final!

After a lengthy deliberation, the judges agreed that the team of six were equally able when answering the judges' questions, not easy via video call as many of us can confirm having experienced connectivity issues through 2020! The team balanced extensive research and practice with charisma and style making them worthy winners for this year's competition.

St Saviour's & St Olave's School presented an idea that took inspiration from the collective good, creating a two-pronged approach that would benefit society. The presentation was lauded by the judges, in particular for their innovative idea and the huge amount of work the team carried out in research and in business development. When pressed on sustainability and their audience, the team shared their knowledge of garment worker exploitation and their target demographic's behaviours as indications of best business practices and how they intend to work ethically to impact positively at every opportunity. While Judge and Freeman Jana Mackintosh queried the distribution of the profits to wider social programmes within the three year plan, the team answered ably.

Your presentation demonstrated a fantastic understanding of the business model – and you've used strong tools to get to know the business you’re getting into. Social enterprises are vital to contributing to society and this showcases the very best.

The winning team 's pitch showed awareness of the competitors working within the same area, as well as appreciation for the wider benefits that their venture could make on communities, be it on garment manufacturers or the environment. The judges believed that at the core, this was an idea that would provide the most social good, and which promised to make a real positive change that could be measured.

The impact of the pandemic and how it's brought about greater awareness of mental health and the environment were key to Foyle College's idea.

Their team presented an idea that was rooted in championing the power of close-to-home connections. The school pitched the idea of a mental health app, giving support through guided questions and answers to those seeking assistance for a variety of mental health needs. The power of family, neighbours, friends have never been considered quite as vital as they have this year. The idea was praised by the judges, and especially by Liveryman Nick Hewer, who saw himself as the target demographic. He remarked: "Congratulations, you have packed so much into that short presentation – very impressive!"

An enjoyable and enlightening competition between three fine schools. The common theme of producing goods and services each with a strong sense of social responsibility whilst never ignoring profitability, innovation or growth potential demonstrates the wealth of business talent existing within our young people.

Wallingford School presented last, an unenviable position, having seen both other schools' pitches! The team however seemed unfazed and presented a remarkable idea that showed strong critical engagement with their idea to help businesses become greener. This is one of the fastest growing areas of business, and the school team's passion for their project was clear. The judges praised the team for their ethics as well as their evident understanding that this is a real growth area. After fielding some tricky questions regarding the finances of their venture, the judges were impressed by the team's understanding of how their business would perform locally, as well as how they could scale up the operations as the company would expand.

the team from Wallingford school presenting

Congratulations to each of the teams, and their teachers and mentors who helped support them through the competition. All teams were awarded £1000 to go to their chosen charities, and the winning school now goes through to the Grand Final in January where they will compete against the winning teams from the Drapers', the Grocers' and the Haberdashers'. Could Merchant Taylors' claim first place on their first year in the competition? We'd certainly like to think so!

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