Y12 Students from across the GDST family came together at London School of Economics for the GDST LEAD Final Showcase, to present their sustainable business ideas, mentored by LSE alumni, and judged by entrepreneurs and experts, amongst them some GDST alumnae from the fields of design, fashion, medicine and more.
Students from across the GDST family congregated at London School of Economics last month to present the sustainable business ideas they had been working on in teams as part of the GDST LEAD Programme, in partnership with LSE Generate, sponsored by Oak North Bank.
GDST LEAD launched in September 2021 as an innovative Leadership and Enterprise programme designed to allow young women to develop the transferable skills necessary to be future leaders and entrepreneurs. Each team had access to their own dedicated mentor from LSE to support and advise them through the business planning process all the way up to the final Showcase Event.
‘You will always meet GDST women in all areas of work; being able to build on that connection and instantly have a common bond is so important in business.’
Amongst the products and services being pitched were thrifted fashion businesses, anti-drink spiking devices, a mouth shield to aid CPR, organic pet snacks and a recycling incentive scheme. Harriet Walker, author and The Times’ fashion editor, noted the thread of sustainability and community running through the young entrepreneurs’ business initiatives. ‘It was a pleasure to see so many articulate and driven young women innovating in fields they saw future needs for,’ she said, ‘and also, to see the support their peers so readily gave them.’
This was echoed by Lolade, in Year 12 at Sutton High School. ‘What I have enjoyed the most,’ she explained, ‘was really working together as a team and contributing to our local community.’ This was a sentiment echoed by Raphaela, in Year 12 at Brighton Girls’, whose team Phoenix upcycled seaglass from their local beach into jewellery: ‘We decided to base our project around thrifted fashion and upcycling because it means a lot to us living in Brighton – reusing and upcycling can only make items more beautiful through the care put into saving and repurposing them as well as the knowledge that we’re helping to make our planet cleaner.’
A word from our CEO on why we set up #GDSTLead and why we think it is so important. Showcase presentations about to begin! #entrepreneurs #leadership #femaleleaders #WomenEmpowerment #changemakers #education #womeninbusiness #enterprise #wheregirlslearnwithoutlimits @cherylGDST pic.twitter.com/z80ifr1tpJ
— GirlsDaySchoolTrust (@GDST) March 24, 2022
Students chose charities to which they donated their business proceeds. Team Period from Northwood College raised over £700 which they donated to period poverty charity Bloody Good Period. Anvi, Year 12, explained the motivation behind choosing this charitable cause: ‘At Northwood College, we want to break the taboo of menstruation and menopause, so we’ve begun making menstrual supplies in staff and student toilets accessible for all, had a PCOS awareness week, started a period poverty committee – so fundraising for Bloody Good Period is a good way of helping those experiencing period poverty.’
‘We couldn’t be happier to come away from this event feeling so motivated and inspired’
The keynote speaker was Steph Desmond, part of the senior team which launched Uber in the UK, and now CEO of parenting platform Bloss. ‘It’s really inspiring to see what the girls have been up to, she said of her involvement in the event, ‘and I want to help them to understand what it’s like to be a woman in business and that they can achieve it too.’ Megan Goulding, in Y12 at Birkenhead High School Academy whose team Security Empower won Best Product for their personal safety kits which include anti-spiking devices, felt similarly inspired by feedback from judges, who suggested exploring the possibility of working with local venues to raise their profile. ‘The LEAD showcase event has really opened our minds,’ she explained, ‘and has left us truly inspired to do some collaborative work with the aim of expanding and preventing dangers such as spiking and harassment.’
Grace, Y12 at Northampton High School, enjoyed the networking element of the day: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed presenting our idea to some very inspirational women and making some valuable connections.’ Sheffield High School alumna, GP and medical director of The Lowdown Dr Frances Yarlett, and one of the judges to whom Grace presented, also spoke about the power of network. ‘At an event like this you meet other members of your GDST family,’ she says. ‘As you get older, you will meet GDST women in all professional areas, and being able to build on that connection and instantly have a common bond is so important in business.’
LJ Silverman, Director of LSE Generate, explained why her organisation were so keen to work with GDST students. ‘The GDST LEAD programme helps embed critical skills such as resilience, business leadership and entrepreneurial thinking early, to empower and create future leaders to think in innovative ways to shape a better tomorrow.’
Watch the video of the day below:
In a recent GDST Raise Her Up podcast episode, we spoke to GDST Alumna and business leader Debbie Wosskow about how she became a successful entrepreneur at the age of 16.