Time and money – our greatest challenges
Reina Karanouh (13) is an eighth grader at Al Makassed Omar Bin Al Khattab College, Beirut, Lebanon. She is the CEO of the New Look Company, which is one of the six companies that have been established at the school in the 12-15 age group. The school belongs to the Makassed Philanthropic Islamic Association in Beirut, an educational organisation that reinforces 21st century and ICT skills, encouraging students to work collaboratively and internationally to ensure their growth in all aspects.
My company belongs to the ‘Fashion ‘category. Our products are women’s handbags, bead bracelets, and neck chokers, which are in fashion in Lebanon nowadays.
We have designed our company logo and written our slogan which is: To look new, buy new look.
Our handbags are made from fabric and textile, which we got freely from a famous store that sells furniture fabric. They usually display samples as an ad for the material found in the store. We have designed our products, and met a subcontractor to help us produce the handbags.
We prepared a questionnaire and asked females (12 years to 50+ years) to fill it out. The aim was to collect data about ladies’ and girls’ preference regarding mainly the handbags, as well as the chokers and bracelets, so that we could modify our prototypes. We analysed and studied the answers, and come out with valuable notes.
Moreover, we arranged a popcorn sale and got some money as a start-up funding. It was an amazing experience.
We prepared the PowerPoint presentation for the Dragon’s Den, which included our SWOT analysis, business plan, budget, marketing strategy and unique selling point, as well as our autobiographies and the results of the questionnaire. We persuaded the Dragons, and we got the loan. To do that, we worked hard on studying the details on every entry especially the budget.
We made the chokers and the bead bracelets after sketching the design. As for the handbags, we drew the designs, and a subcontractor has helped us sew or make them.
After designing the logo, we prepared the needed quantity of labels from it. We are to put it on each product of our company.
Now, my friends and I are preparing for our sales that will take place very soon. We are planning to advertise our products on posters and flyers which will be displayed in different places on the school campus, in addition to the use of Sway to spread our posters online. Each team’s logo, by itself, is an advertisement which will be put on all the products. Moreover, there will be a big display for the products and a sale entitled Big Sale with the slogan Buy More… Pay Less… We will be inviting officials at our association (Al Makassed), the school staff (administrators, teachers, students from grade six to twelve), and parents. We are intending to offer chocolate with the logo on it to welcome visitors to our stand. The date will be very close to Mother’s Day, when people usually buy gifts for their mothers. We are also planning to sell our products during break time. We have to check out the setting, our stock, and reassure final quality control of all the displayed items. All the items should be clearly labeled and the prices should be set. We should prepare a money box with change. The accountant of the company is responsible to deal with the money.
Microsoft Office 365 has enabled us to:
• Create and build our logo using graphical software
• Use Yammer, to share and evaluate ideas (team collaboration). We have been motivated by seeing others’ prototypes. This has enhanced our enthusiasm and creativity.
• Generate forms (preparing a questionnaire) and study and analyse responses using Microsoft Excel (spreadsheet program)
• Fill out the questionnaire using a given link on the GEC SharePoint
• Use the GEC SharePoint to exchange ideas and data with others – which has inspired us to do more
• Use One Drive to upload and share our files and images to be accessible to all team members
• Use a spreadsheet to record the budget, and sales tracking (transaction record)
• Use presentation programs: preparing the PowerPoint presentation for Dragon’s Den
• Exchange emails with team members and team leaders
• Use Microsoft Word to generate our documents (products, biographies, etc.)
• Use our smart phones to take photos and exchange messages (WhatsApp)
• Plan to generate a mobile app and web store to sell our products by writing small codes and scripts
• Meet with other members in the company / team via Skype during vacations
• Use Office 365 Calendar to note dates of different tasks
• Use Office 365 Task to specify each team member’s tasks
• Use Sway to create a catalogue and send it to customers
Collaborating with children from other countries
We have exchanged photos and got feedback from others. We have learned about other cultures and the way they view things. We have also shared our biographies, prototypes, photos showing different stages, and emails.
Challenges and successes
Our biggest daily challenge is understanding and applying business skills, especially collecting money and funding our project. It is also our teamwork in the company and how we are meeting on daily basis whether at school or online via WhatsApp where we exchange ideas and share responsibility to work hard in order to win. In other words, time and money have been our greatest challenges. We have had to prepare the stages of GEC at the same time as preparing for the exams. Fundraising activities are of our concern, too.
My favorite part so far is meeting with other members in the company and creating designs for our products. It is also thrilling to find the plans and sketches translated into concrete and tangible objects. How delighted we all feel when someone wants to buy one of our products, especially the handbags. We are also so glad because we are using what we are learning at school in a different context; exchanging ideas with others, especially in other countries.
The hardest part of the project so far is when we find no time for an urgent meeting, especially if we have a test. Sometimes, there is not enough time to do the things we want to do in the way we want to. We are feeling the stress and pressure, which is interesting and very real.
The most important thing we’ve learnt
Participating in the project has taught me (and all the others in the six companies) business skills and terms used in selling, buying, trading, and manufacturing products. GEC has given us a global perspective of business development. Moreover, my teammates have become independent and have taken ownership of our enterprise. We have realised the importance of teamwork. We are working as a team, with a team leader, yet, each member has a distinct role. Despite this fact, we are helping each other. We have also recognised the importance of the ICT skills that we are using in different stages of the challenge. The project is a great opportunity for growth and maturity that I don’t think I would have got otherwise. It has an outstanding impact on the evolution of our personality.
The project is also an opportunity for me and the others to do further research on unique selling points, business plans, budgets, and marketing strategies. It reinforces the 21st century skills for us as learners.
I would advise those who are thinking about participating in the challenge in future years to do that and never hesitate, especially if they are creative and determined, and they love to face challenges. If they would like to practice having companies and be entrepreneur in the future, they should undergo this experience.
Preparing for my future
My ambition is to excel in my studies to be able to major in business, so I can establish my own company in the future, and have the position of a CEO, since I am experiencing this while working on the GEC project.
New Look Company is working hard to display the best and striving to be a winner in the GEC. This is also my ambition.
Every single step in the project is of great help in preparing me, as well as the others, for the future. GEC has taught me business skills, soft skills and communication skills. We have faced the challenges of forming a productive team, founding a company, drawing a logo, having an indicative slogan, agreeing on products to be manufactured and their selling price, etc… All are essential in the business world. Moreover, we are integrating most subject matters at school and using them in the project. ICT and computer skills are highly reinforced. The challenge is preparing us to be successful at applying the 21st century skills meaningfully and functionally. It is perfect for us to learn these skills. We need to be problem-solvers and work collaboratively. We should use technology without fear to enhance critical thinking in order to deepen our learning. It has also given us the chance to know and explore Office 365 and use as many tools as we can.