Big ideas at Step ‘N’ Zones

We’re helping students get in touch with their inner entrepreneur.

Today in Ballymena we kicked off this year’s Step ‘N’ Zones competition. Over 250 students from local schools got to work developing business ideas with the help of Invest NI, W5, YENI, Advantage NI, Sentinus and HDB Design.

It’s the first of six events across Northern Ireland as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014.

What is the Step ‘N’ Zones competition?


The Step ‘N’ Zones competition invites students aged 11–14 (Key Stage 3) to develop a new business idea.

During the event the students pass through four zones where they get expert guidance on how to develop and research their idea, brand their product, cost it and develop their business plan.

The students can win cash prizes of up to £1000 for their school and up to £100 in high street vouchers for each member of the winning team.

For the rest of this week and next Monday we’ll be following the progress of students as they pass through the zones. Check back to hear how they’re getting on.

Step ‘N’ Zones events

  • 17 November – Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena
  • 18 November – Armagh City Hotel, Armagh
  • 19 November – Manor House Hotel, Enniskillen
  • 20 November – City Hotel, Derry~Londonderry
  • 21 November – Ramada Hotel, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast
  • 24 November – Ramada Hotel, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast

Day 2 Zone 1 - Ideas & Research

Over 270 students descended on Armagh City Hotel today for our second Step ‘N’ Zones event.

First stop for the young entrepreneurs was Zone 1 – Ideas & Research.

In this zone the students from ten local schools worked in teams to come up with a business idea. On hand to help were staff from Advantage NI and Sentinus.

Once the ideas were hatched the students had to identify their business’s unique selling point and do some online research to identify who their main competitors are.

Tomorrow we’ll hear from students in Fermanagh, in particular, what they learned in Zone 2 – Brand & Customer.

Day 3 Zone 2 - Brand & Customer

Enniskillen’s Manor House Hotel was today’s Step ‘N ‘Zones venue. Seven local schools got down to the business of coming up with this year’s winning business idea.


After researching their idea in Zone 1 the students moved into Zone 2 – Brand & Customer to learn about branding their product and targeting customers. Design company HBD Design helped them to think about:

  • Who their customers would be – for instance, students, parents, sports teams.
  • What the product name would be.
  • What their logo should look like.
  • How they would advertise their product.
  • Where they would sell their products – for example, online, in supermarkets, in specialist shops.

Tomorrow we’re in Derry~Londonderry and we’ll be featuring the students’ experience of Zone 3 – Resources and Finance.

Day 4 Zone 3 - Resource & Finance

Today’s event took place in the City Hotel, Derry~Londonderry where over 200 11–14 year olds from local schools made their way through the four zones to help them refine their business idea.


The all important subject of money is the focus of Zone 3 – Resources & Finance.

Helping the students get to grips with the numbers were staff from W5. The students were tasked with working out the resources and finance they will need to get their business up and running. They identified key resources such as office space, legal costs and materials, and then worked out monthly outgoings and incoming revenue.

Tomorrow we’ll be at the first of two events in Belfast, and Zone 4 – Developing a business plan will be the subject of discussion.

Day 5 Zone 4 - Business Plan

There was quite a buzz in the Ramada Hotel today as 220 students from nine Belfast schools gathered to get to work on their business ideas.


Having worked their way through Zones 1–3, the students were ready for Zone 4 where they started to put together their business plan.

Working with YENI the young entrepreneurs began to develop a three year plan for their business based on SMART objectives. They also started to think about production plans, a PR strategy and setting up a website.

Our last Step ‘N’ Zones event takes place on Monday when more Belfast schools will take part.

Day 6

The final day of the Step N Zones events sees us back in Belfast where 8 local schools are making the journey through the four zones.


As they go they complete a Business Canvas, which will form the basis of their competition entry.

All the students that have taken part in the Step N Zones events will submit their final entry via our online Business Canvas tool. One school from each local event will be shortlisted to compete in a final Northern Ireland-wide event on Friday 23 January 2015.

Don’t forget, the closing date for the competition is Wednesday 10 December. We’re looking forward to seeing all the great ideas.