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Jessica Kelly, 22, from Delamere and Ayoup Jarrai, 26, originally from Italy, flew to Oslo to pitch for the judges in the European Finals of the Young Enterprise Start-up Challenge, after beating stiff competition to win the UK finals.

They came second place in Europe in the Value for Society Award, impressing the judges with their company, The Goat Tree, a co-operative in Morocco producing 100% pure argan oil, which they import and bottle.

Both Directors have connections in Morocco and 20% of profits go to fund the education of Berber women, who are working in the co-operative, most of whom cannot read or write. The Fairtrade co-operative will produce sustainably sourced 100% argan oil with no additives. Their idea is to re-invest profits back into to the farm where the argan kernels are cold-pressed by a stone mill. With donkeys being the main mode of transport in Morocco, Jessica and Ayoup are looking to plough profits from the business back into the animals’ wellbeing and improving the lives of members of the co-operative in Morocco.

Jess and Ayoup took part in the two day event at Norway’s Business Institute and Oslo Science Park, competing against some of the leading entrepreneurial institutions in Europe. The awards evening took place at the stunning Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded; followed by a celebration in the grounds of a  beautiful hillside villa.

While the home country of Norway won the European competition, The Goat Tree received high praise from the judges, including a special mentioned from Johan H. Andersen, a leading businessman and Chair of the Council for Ethics for the Norwegian Government, who told an audience of Europe’s brightest new and established entrepreneurs that if there was an award for the best Social Enterprise at the European final they would win it. The judges were impressed that their business would benefit those much less fortunate, in a country other than their own, to ensure fairness and equity in the production and supply chain.

Jess said: “Representing the United Kingdom and the University of Chester at the European Final has been an experience that we’ll carry for the rest of our lives.

“Having the opportunity to share our story, our ambition and amazing product with a wide range of entrepreneurial experts from all over the world has been amazing for us in achieving our ambition of initiating social change. As a result of taking part in the competition we have been given the opportunity to connect and network with European teams with a parallel entrepreneurial mindset. While we did not win the prize, we were credited for our passion and determination to make a mark on society which we both greatly appreciated.

“The next step of our journey will take us all around the world from the Moroccan embassy in London to Morocco and potentially China.

“We could not have achieved this without all our tutors support here at the University. We are a small cooperative with a big vision and can’t wait for the next step of our journey.”

Ayoup added: “Representing the United Kingdom and the University of Chester at the European Final has been an experience of a lifetime.”

“In just our first year as entrepreneurs we have had the opportunity to share our story, our ambition and amazing product with a wide range of entrepreneurial experts from all over the world and it is so much more than we could have expected when we set up the Goat Tree only last year!

“This experience gave us the chance to make friendships with members of the other European teams with an incredible entrepreneurial mind, learning a lot from them, inspiring me even more to continue to drive The Goat Tree to succeed in the luxury cosmetics sector.”

Dr Connie Hancock, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Business and Finance at the University’s Business School, said: “Jess and Ayoup were absolutely outstanding in all elements of the competition.  All of us at the University of Chester Business School are immensely proud of their achievement in reaching the European Finals.

“They are inspirational in their approach to conducting sustainable business and the global potential of the business has been recognised and rewarded and as their tutor, I am so proud of all of their achievements.” 

Andrew Firr, UK Young Enterprise Start-Up Manager, said: “The Goat Tree from the University of Chester were fantastic representatives at this year’s Junior Achievement Europe 2019 Enterprise Challenge. They competed with great effort and no shortage of skill against the very best entrepreneurial university students from around Europe.

“The standard is exceptionally high at European Level but The Goat Tree were competitive in all areas and have been a pleasure to work with. This should be just the beginning and I will watch with interest how the company progresses over the years to come. The University of Chester has been a long standing partner of Young Enterprise, all the way back to 2013 and consistently produce strong teams from small cohorts of students, they are a valued partner and we look forward to growing this relationship.

“Well done The Goat Tree, Young Enterprise is hugely proud and grateful for your efforts over the last 10 months, what a journey, from Internal, Regional, National to ultimately taking part in the European Competition.”

Whilst at the European finals Jess and Ayoup were invited to enter into another entrepreneurial competition in China. This is the China Internet+ University Graduates Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award. They have now entered the competition in the Social Enterprise category and will be going to China to compete in October.

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