Students tackle Foodbank challenge

Winning team Igniting Enterprise (back row from left to right) Usaj Basnet, Marc Rowbury, James Roberts, Francesco D’Alessio, Mingaile Rutauskaite and Michelle
Winning team Igniting Enterprise (back row from left to right) Usaj Basnet, Marc Rowbury, James Roberts, Francesco D’Alessio, Mingaile Rutauskaite and Michelle

Students tackle Foodbank challenge in ‘Dragons Den-style’ competition

STUDENTS at Plymouth University have been using their business skills in a ‘Dragons Den-style’ challenge to help improve the efficiency of a Cornish Foodbank.

Eight teams of students have spent the last 24 hours taking part in the University’s annual FLUX competition, sponsored by energy broker Total Energy Solutions.

After a closely fought battle, the winning team was named as Igniting Enterprise with their #coolbeans campaign, with team Mercury as close runners-up.

Igniting Enterprise will go on to compete in the national final in March in the hope of defending the title. Plymouth University are the current FLUX champions having won the trophy last year, and for the fourth time in the competition’s seven-year history.

Speaking after being named Plymouth University winners, Igniting Enterprises’ team leader Francesco D’Alessio said: “It is amazing to have won and we’re excited for the national final. It is a great experience because you do not get to see what the other teams are doing, so there’s no benchmark, so we just decided to focus on our own product and building that.

“The business advice we all received from Total Energy Solutions before and after the event has been invaluable and in terms of preparing for the national finals, we will be working on the feedback we received and improving on those areas.”

Event sponsors Total Energy Solutions and Callington Foodbank joined forces to set the teams the challenge of developing business plans to improve the efficiency of Callington Foodbank, with the potential for the best ideas to be rolled out nationwide.

The students had to devise a short-term business strategy to change the perception of Foodbanks, while also looking at improving their efficiency on a long-term basis.

The teams had 24-hours to come up with solutions before presenting them to the ‘Dragons Den-style’ panel of judges today (Feb 25).

Alastair Carnegie, managing director of Stoke Climsland-based Total Energy Solutions which has supported the event for the past nine years, said: “The FLUX competition gets students responding to a scenario or challenge that real businesses may face.

“As sponsors, we wanted to work closely with a local charity to find some genuine solutions to genuine problems they have. Foodbank is an emergency service for people who live below the poverty line, for whatever reason, so we decided to base the scenario around that.”

Pam Stephens, of Callington Foodbank, said: “Foodbanks are a crisis centre for people in need. However, there is a stigma that people do not want to be seen going in to Foodbanks looking for food. We want to change perceptions and to be able to get to people before they reach crisis point.

“We think that the Flux teams have come up with some really good solutions on how we can improve our services at Callington Foodbank.”

Shirley Walker, head of careers and employability at Plymouth University, said: “FLUX is a great way for students to demonstrate their business knowledge under the watchful eye of these experts who are often looking for up-and-coming talent. It will challenge their skills and their confidence and is a useful competence to add to their CV.”

Today’s winning team will go on to compete at the national final in March competing against 16 other universities.