By royal invitation

Hogan Lovells co-CEO David Harris on how being involved with youth development scheme Mosaic led the firm to play host to royalty

David Harris
David Harris

Last week Hogan Lovells hosted the finals of the Apax-Mosaic Enterprise Challenge 2012. This is a national competition aimed at 11-16 year olds with the aim of giving them first-hand experience of the world of business and to help encourage entrepreneurial skills. By inspiring young people from deprived communities, Mosaic helps realise their talents and potential.

I was invited to chair the judging panel for the final round of the competition. My fellow judges included former Asian business woman of the year Nabila Sadiq, Andrew Fiddaman from Youth Business International, Faiz Bhanji from Apax Partners and Stuart Hoggan from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Reaching the finals was no mean feat. In the region of 2,000 students from 60 schools across the UK battled it out, including taking part in an online business game requiring them to produce, market and sell one of five products. This was followed by a written presentation of a business idea and in the finals presenting a business pitch.   It was a tough challenge.

We have been involved with Mosaic since it was founded in 2007 and this is the fourth year we have hosted the event. This was the first year, though, that the finals were attended by HRH The Prince of Wales.

Each of the five schools participating in the finals comprised a team of five students.  Each team had to present their proposal in our auditorium in front of 150 guests, including Prince Charles and Mosaic’s chairwoman, Her Royal Highness Princess Badiya bint El Hassan of Jordan, as well as the panel of judges. They had just three minutes to get their idea across and explain why someone should invest in it. Quite a daunting experience by any standards.

Yet what came across was the depth of thinking and commercial nous that these students brought to the task. They might have been nervous but they coped with it well and it certainly didn’t dampen their enthusiasm.   

It was a difficult choice, but the judges selected Southfields Community College in London as the winners for their proposal of a secure, cashless micropayments system built into a wristband and other accessories, which also enabled parents to track their children’s spending both in school and at participating local businesses.

Apart from the enthusiasm of the students, what also came across very clearly was the commitment and passion of the Prince of Wales for engaging the next generation of business leaders and his inclusive approach to bringing out the best in people from all backgrounds across the UK. He was also interested in taking the time to stop and talk to members of the firm as he attended the Mosaic event.

If there is ever any doubt about the future of the British economy, you only have to look at the untapped potential that is already there in our schools. 

David Harris is co-CEO at Hogan Lovells