The Value Challenge is a task undertaken by students within the Norwich Business School enrolled on the Enterprise and Business Creation course who choose to study the Planning and Running a Business module.

The challenge, now in its third year, puts students through their paces by encouraging them to set up a business that runs for a semester with the goal of creating the most “value” as possible, value can be accumulated in a number of ways as described in the brief released to students: “Value can be measured in simple financial terms – the income generated, minus costs (if any). Social value may also be created – e.g. benefit to a disadvantaged group – and if so should also be documented. However, social enterprises that will not be financially sustainable are excluded.”

The Value Challenge comes from The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at the Florida State University College of Business. In 2010 their winning students took $25 and multiplied it 40 times (to $1,009.50). They used spray paint, electrical tape, some paint stirrers (which were free) and paperboard to make tomahawks for football fans. After selling a small batch of 40 they realised they were onto something and made a further 140 which they sold, along with water, at an FSU football game.

Dr Tiago Botelho, the module’s convenor, introduced UEA to the value challenge when he started in the academic year 15/16 and it has run for the last three years. During this time the amount raised for charity has increased year on year with circa: £190 in year 1, £450 in year 2 and now a staggering £1,350. With this year’s winning team Discover Norwich raising over £1000, all of which will be donated to the Wymondham Dementia Support Group (WDSG), who currently plan to use it towards a new kitchen for their centre which runs various well attended activities. Accepting the cheque on behalf of WDSG was the charities organiser, Dianne, who was wholly grateful and took time to talk to all of the students involved and welcomed them to visit the charity to see it at work.

The sponsors of the prize for the winning team, Robot Mascot, have been supporting Dementia Support Wymondham for 3-4 years now, talking about the charity, Nick Ruston (the company’s Creative Director) said “[WDSG] provide a fantastic service and Dianne’s passion is a real testament to the charity, the teams involved this year raised a great amount of money.” The winning team will get a money-can’t-buy workshop with Robot Mascot and the opportunity to use the expertise from within this company to scale and develop their own business ideas. With a base in both The Enterprise Centre on campus and Shoreditch in London, Robot Mascot, have a close relationship with UEA and even some of our alumni, specialising mostly in tech start-ups/scale-ups, primarily as a design brand and information agency.

Speaking to the winning team comprising of: Jonathan Foo; Christos Arapis; and Mohammed Alkordi, whose idea Discover Norwich raised a staggering total of £1017, they remained modest and were clearly in disbelief as what they thought would be a simple idea, quickly turned into a winner. After a lot of brainstorming and comparing the face-to-face market to that online, they wanted to work with local independent businesses and avoid franchises of large businesses.

They initially set out not to make a huge profit, but to focus on the ‘value’ aspect of the challenge, aiming to bring the community of independent businesses within Norwich closer to the university by encouraging students to go out and explore what is on offer within our fine city. This innovative trio of students achieved this through working with local businesses to create a small card that fits in your wallet and offers a one-off special discount for each of the eight restaurants that took part, the price for such discount? Just two of your British pounds, well of course this quickly proved popular not just with students, but staff and other local businesses who quickly snatched up the vouchers.

The team continued to stay focused on providing a win-win-win situation for all of those involved, delivering a discount for those using the cards, whilst providing affordable advertising for independent businesses, whilst also fundraising for charity and hopefully generating enough ‘value’ to win the challenge, something they never expected. By only utilising independent restaurants across the city of Norwich they wanted to offer an incentive for students to explore the city and enjoy the exploits that local restaurants had to share.

Following the theme of ‘boot-strapping’ the group managed to keep costs as low as possible, leading them to break the record for the amount raised during the challenge since its inception at UEA, they managed to do this without utilising the loan from the business school and instead convincing a local printing company to print the cards for free by allowing them to advertise on the rear of the card. The key to their success may have been the simplicity of their idea whilst also providing a real sense of value for everyone involved in this enterprise.

The trio also provided their top tips for future teams: “Don’t give up, don’t listen to your colleagues if they don’t like your idea, as long as you believe in it then it will work” but also “don’t be afraid to change your plans, take the time to evaluate each stage, if you find something that can be improved or needs changing then work with your team and change it, harness each other’s strengths, don’t just stick with the plan you made on day one, things will change, work with it”. Adding “if you can, attempt to measure the outcome of your project, for example we can project the ‘value’ of our project through the fact we sold 500 vouchers, which means potentially 500-1000 people will use each restaurant, however, we have no way of measuring this or how many people actually used the cards therefore no way of knowing the true impact of our project overall, so if you can, build a feedback loop into your project so you can measure the true ‘value’ at the end, not just the financial return for your team”.

The enthusiasm of everyone involved was clear to see, the students all seemed overjoyed with the experience and the staff clearly have a passion for delivering hands-on, authentic, and impactful experience that benefits not only a local charity, but students and businesses alike. Dr Botelho believes in learning through doing and is pleased to see the Value Challenge growing in success year on year and is excited to see what next year will bring finally adding that he is “very proud of all of the teams and thanks them for their enthusiasm throughout his module”.