Global department store, Selfridges, hosted a unique and inpirational event with Enabling Enterprise located in he Bullring, one of Birmingham’s most iconic landmarks. This show-stopping store provided the venue for an exciting enterprise challenge for Year 5 students from Reaside Academy and Gilbertstone Primary School.

As the students entered the building they observed the distinctive architecture of the store. They were then led past the famous jelly bean bull, up the enormous escalators and past the creative displays and were greeted by Vicki Cain, General Manager for Selfridges, Birmingham.

Also joining the students was Liz, HR Manager for Selfridges who introduced Selfridges values to the students. She explained that in everything they do, Selfridges employees aim to ‘Surprise, Amaze and Amuse’. Students listened carefully as she spoke about Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridges, who believed that ‘the well-pleased customer is the best advertiser’. The students would take these core values forward in their Wonderful Office Workspace (WOW) challenge during the day.

Selfridges Staff Bring the ‘World of Work to Life’

Selfridges professionals from a range of departments kindly volunteered their time to support and mentor the primary students during the day. As they were from the Human Relations, Sales Management, Security, Food Operations and Brand Specialisms department they had a variety of experience and expertise to support the students in their task. They were also eager to show the students insights into the world of work and help them understand how the enterprise skills they were developing at school were relevant for the future.

Enterprise education is often forgotten about within the primary school context, and instead is considered a way of developing employability skills for secondary students. However, embedding enterprise skills within the primary curriculum, such as through work-related opportunities like the visit to Selfridges, students can begin developing skills at an early age. This can be hugely valuable for their learning as they progress in school, as well as helping them fulfil the competencies that employers look out for.

Furthermore, according to The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), employability can be defined as:

“…the possession by an individual of the qualities and competences required to meet the changing needs of employers and customers and thereby help to realise his or her aspirations and potential in work”.

Keeping Employees Happy

During their visit to Selfridges, students got the chance to interview the employees about their careers. They asked questions such as ‘What skills do you use in your job?’, ‘What is your favourite part of your job?’ and ‘What’s good about working here?’

Stuart, from Food Operations, advised the students to ‘Aim High and you can achieve anything. This is a great career and I love working here.’ Sarah, Sales Manager at Selfridges, has worked at the store since it opened 10 years ago and still enjoys working there as much as the day she started.

Then, students were asked to think about why it’s important to ensure that employees are happy at work. Through questioning the volunteers they discovered that businesses like Selfridges encourage and support their employees and this can be a way of making them more productive and happy at work.

With this in mind students set to work on their brief – to design a ‘surprising, amazing and amusing’ workspace where 8 employees could work happily and productively. Students from Reaside Academy and Gilbertstone Primary worked together in teams and were supported by their volunteers from Selfridges and their Teachers and Support staff from school.

WOW! Creative Store Tour

To help students in their creative design task, they were treated to a tour of all the shop floors. They would be able to take inspiration from the amazing sights, sounds and smells as they walked round the store.

The students saw the statue of Harry Gordon Selfridge himself who had been immortalised in Jelly beans. They smelled the wonderful Asian food, saw the bright colours of the confectionery departments, the whirring helicopters and giant televisions in the technical department, the immaculately presented jewellery and fashion departments and a great deal more.

The students were given Selfridges Detective Booklets so they could record ideas and conversations that they had with employees during the tour. Students asked great questions to help them in their task, such as ‘What would make working here even better’.

Unique Ideas to ‘Surprise, Amaze and Amuse’

With new and exciting ideas fresh in their mind the students set to work creating a ‘birds eye view’ plan of their new office design. They also prepared pitches about the design process that would be judged on their creativity, presentation skills and fulfilment of the WOW challenge brief.

There were interactive workstations complete with iPads for employees that would enable them to control the lights, temperature and even order food. Another idea was to fit some ‘scratch and sniff’ chocolate painted desks, and managers would be given wheelie chairs as they need to ‘spin around a lot in their jobs’. They even had mini helicopters and a store train to transport products around the store with the motto ‘Work is Fun’ painted on the carriage.

At lunch time the rocket canteen would offer a thrilling experience for employees, or perhaps some would prefer lunch in the ‘all you can eat buffet’ or the 80s Diner complete with juke box. Flexible lunch breaks would allow staff to dine at a time of their choosing, keeping employees happy and content throughout the day.

To relax and take a break, Selfridges staff would be able to lay on the jelly bean sofa or massage chairs. Maybe after work they might visit the movie theatre or take a dip in the Jacuzzi to enjoy some after work social time with employees.
The Exquisite Kids team felt that Selfridges sell their luxury products in a unique way so wanted to make their design very unique too. The Triple Cs team wanted to make sure they thought of good solutions to the downsides of their wacky ideas and make Selfridges a ‘one of a kind, fun and stress free environment to work in’.


After the presentations, the students reflected on what they had learned throughout the day and how they had been developing the Enabling Enterprise Challenge skills. Whilst this was happening the judges were in another room, deliberating over the winning teams design. After much discussion they returned to the room to announce the winning team.

The Amazing Allstars were praised for being professional and polite, and for explaining where their inspiration had come from, using words like ‘surprise, amaze and luxury’.

The Exquisite Kids’ listening skills had been a strong point throughout the day and their presentation was clear and to the point. The Brilliant B’s presented confidently with each person stepping forward to speak showing just how much they had practiced and prepared. The Drumming Demons were noted as being very ‘yellow’ in their thinking and use of imagination, this means they had a ‘very Selfridges’ way of working.

But the judges decision was unanimous – the Triple Cs were to be the winning team. With their great persuasive skills and their unique ideas such as the train, rocket canteen and handy technology to make life easier they secured the top spot.
The triple Cs were presented with their winner’s prizes generously provided by Selfridges – a huge confectionary lolly each. All the students were presented with an iconic yellow Selfridges bag full of goodies as a reward for all their hard work, and a reminder of their unique experience at Selfridges developing their challenge skills.

Well done to all the students on their enterprise trip. The Selfridges employees said they were highly impressed by the students understanding of the main objectives and values of Selfridges. They thought it was great that the students worked so well with those from other schools who they had never met before. Also, they were impressed by how confidently the 9 and 10 year old students presented to a room full of adults and other children.

Thank You Selfridges

A big thank you to Selfridges for providing a unique experience for students at Reaside Academy and Gilbertstone Primary School, and supporting their enthusiastic and motivated volunteers. And as Gordon Selfridge said himself, ‘There’s no fun like work!’

Selfridges are supporting the skills development in schools through this Enabling Enterprise programme, to find out how you can get involved Contact Us.

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