Polymade, an eco-friendly business formed by Monmouth School pupils, won the coveted Best Company prize along with three other awards at the regional Young Enterprise final
The eight-strong Polymade team, whose practical, cutting edge idea for recycling empty milk bottles wowed the judges, will now go on to represent Newport and Monmouthshire in the Wales final next month.
Their unique chopping boards made from donated plastic, along with their astute business acumen, saw them scoop prizes for the Best Presentation, Best Trade Stand and Interview, plus the Environmental and Community award.
Lewis Jones, Polymade’s Managing Director, said: “Having our hard work recognised was great – not only for myself but for the company as a whole.
“Running a business is like being stranded at sea. There’s so many directions you could go in but you don’t have a clue whether the path you choose is the right one. We’ve had a lot of failures along the way, but we’ve always met them with grit and determination and it was a great morale boost for the team to know that it was all worthwhile.”
Judges praised the boys for coming up with such an original concept. “They like the communal aspect of our company, how we encouraged the town to recycle milk bottles was something they had not seen in the competition before,” added Lewis. “Judges said that the main improvement we needed to make was our report, which we are currently looking into.
“One judge spoke to me individually after the event and mentioned how pleasing it was to see teenagers spreading awareness for a topic that generally is not a prominent one among our age group.”
Polymade has made £150 in profit since establishing the company at the beginning of the year and orders are constantly flowing in.
The Monmouth School boys with their awards
“I’ve learned a lot as Managing Director,” said Lewis. “We started off as a group that didn’t really know each other. Being Managing Director at the beginning was a big challenge. I had to manage the morale of individuals while ensuring we got jobs done. I remember our first meeting – it was chaos. Everyone was talking over each other to such an extent that we didn’t accomplish anything. Now meetings run like clockwork.”
The team hopes to branch out in the future, maintaining their small business character while marketing the product further afield.
“I think our chances are good in the Wales final,” Lewis continued. “The key to our success so far has been not to underestimate the opposition. In the minibus only half an hour after winning the regional heat, we were discussing our next move for the upcoming event.”
16-year-old Mahfuz Abdul-Hamid, Polymade’s Director of Marketing, said: “We wanted to set up a business that everyone could relate to. Everyone goes through milk, so people are bound to have empty bottles lying around.
“They either get recycled or put into black bin bags and we never see what happens to them afterwards. There are a lot of chopping boards on the market, but none which are made like this.”
The boys are able to collect around 80 empty milk bottles a week from the school’s boarding houses to bring their idea to life in the DT department.
Hamad Aloufan, 17, is the company’s Sales Representative. He said “Plastic isn’t biodegradable and a lot of it goes to landfills, so we became creative with it.
“The chopping boards are all unique, no two are alike. The red and green tops give them a speckled finish which really makes them stand out.”
The team has access to an industrial shredder and sheet press in Monmouth School’s DT workshop, where they have perfected the design through trial and error.
Hamad added: “We also get a lot of help from Delyth Harris, our mentor, who runs Gwalia Consulting Ltd in Monmouth. She gives us good business advice, helps us to clean up our act and become more professional.”
The boys plan to ask local shops to stock their kitchen accessories, and hope to see them in Salt & Pepper’s window eventually.
Mahfuz added: “You have to rely on people to get stuff done when you’re running a business. You have to put lots of trust into each other. Every decision is important and you learn from every failure.”
Featured image: the Polymade team photo pre-awards