A group of Year 9 students, encouraged to develop their enterprising skills at Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), started their own business – Hydro Cycle – in 2018, selling reusable water bottles. Isabelle Henson, Pierce German, Joshua Farnworth and Ella Gray began the business in an attempt to help combat the amount of plastic used across schools in the United Kingdom.

The academy incorporates the Aldridge Attributes into all aspects of school life, encouraging the development of enterprising skills and entrepreneurship. The inspiration for Hydro Cycle came from the then UK Education Minister’s pledge to make schools plastic free by 2021. On investigating their school’s waste the students realised they needed to do something to deal with the huge amount of water bottles and plastic being used. They entered the Tycoons in Schools competition and landed a £1,000 loan for their start-up.

They also achieved the backing of Empine Group, a prominent local business who started life in the academy’s Bridge Business Centre, one of the Foundation’s Aldridge Creates Centres. The company sponsored and mentored the students’ business, and helped to produce their bottles. Pierce explains how they bought environmentally-friendly bottles from Empine to start their business. “We used the money we had as a loan to buy 1,000 bottles from them and went from there. By selling 500 bottles we made a profit and paid back our loan”.

The team also took advantage of the Aldridge Foundation’s Elevate Summer School at the University of the West of England (UWE). This is one of the Foundation’s Inspire programmes designed to provide young people who may not otherwise have such opportunities with the chance to take part in inspiring experiences which raise aspirations; build confidence and resilience; and inform their wider world view.

The summer school brought students from across the Aldridge Academies together on a week-long programme, developing their entrepreneurial skills. Joshua said: “It was really good to communicate with other people that are in our world of business, talk about their experiences and learn new strategies for marketing, and protecting our name.”
The enterprising students took the opportunity to promote their business to fellow Aldridge students, talking to other academies about creating sub-teams to sell their reusable bottles. hey hope to spread this across the Aldridge network of schools, and beyond.

Joshua said “We are really passionate about what we are doing. We think that the plastic being used in the world is astronomical, and we want to change that. We want the Aldridge schools to lead that charge and be the models for other schools in the nation”.