Gazelle’s pantrepreneur challenge

Lewisham College engineering students displaying their Pants to Poverty design. Left to right: Joel Mvula, Bubacar Djalo and Landing Samba. Picture by Nick Linford.

Students are creating Olympic-inspired briefs for a national competition led by the fair trade underwear brand Pants to Poverty.

The ‘Pantrepreneur Challenge’, organised in collaboration with the Gazelle group, has asked learners from 15 colleges to design, produce and sell pairs of pants to the public.

Ben Ramsden, founder of Pants to Poverty and also a ‘Gazelle entrepreneur’, says the competition is designed to test students’ creative, collaborative and entrepreneurial skills.

“For young people starting their careers in today’s economic climate, it is more important than ever to encourage and inspire them to start their own businesses and get experience whilst at college,” Mr Ramsden said.

“This competition will give students the chance to learn how to run their own business, while also designing a very sexy pair of pants!

“What’s more, students will see how even small businesses can change the world for the better.”

The team which sells the most briefs for charity will win a trip to India, where they can see the supply chain used by Pants to Poverty “from cotton to bottom”.

I’m confident we can raise a lot of money for a great cause, and the students winning the trip to India would be the icing on the cake.”

The runners up will be able to continue putting their business skills to the test by organising and running a ‘Pants to Poverty’ stall at numerous festivals throughout the summer.

The third prize meanwhile is a year’s worth of Pants to Poverty underwear.

Five teams from Middlesbrough College initially entered the competition, pitching a design, business plan and marketing scheme.

The winning team, ‘Access2Pants’, now have 500 pairs featuring their designs which they have been selling throughout May (see below).

Chris Tame, an access to business student at Middlesbrough College and also a member of the ‘Access2Pants’ team, said: “It’s been a real team effort but we came up with the design fairly quickly.

“We’re all business students, so creating a business plan, producing a product and marketing it in this way is a great way to consolidate what we’ve learnt on our course.”

Mr Tame added: “To do so whilst raising money for charity is a bonus.”

The principal of Middlesbrough College, Mike Hopkins, has given the designs his ‘seal of approval’ and has also been sponsored – along with other members of staff – to wear a pair of the team’s pants over his clothes.

Mr Hopkins said: “They’re great aren’t they? They’re very comfortable and the design looks fantastic.

“I’m confident we can raise a lot of money for a great cause, and the students winning the trip to India would be the icing on the cake.”

The winning team will be unveiled by Mr Ramsden in London on June 15.

The Pantrepreneur Challenge is a fun contest with a serious purpose that highlights the Gazelle approach of learning by doing.”

Richard Thorold, principal of Gateshead College, says although the challenge is fun it also has “a serious purpose” for emphasising the commitment of entrepreneurial colleges (see picture below).

“It is a real commercial initiative that has inspired our students and others to take part in a tangible and engaging way that brings entrepreneurial skills to life,” Mr Thorold said.

“It will also teach our students that there can be a strong social purpose in business and that although making money is important to keeping our economy going, it doesn’t have to be the only objective at the heart of a business.”

Team Squiggle from City College Norwich, which includes interactive media students Jordan Baker, Michael Thompson, Bethany Spring and Jamie Thurston, have opted to use Winston Churchill in their design (see below).

Mr Thompson said the inspiration for the design came from a feeling of pride surrounding the Olympic Games: “Winston Churchill is such an iconic figure and he was so proud of who he was, and of his country.

“We felt he represents the spirit of pride that we have in Team GB and in hosting the Olympic Games.”

Team Squiggle sold nearly 40 pairs on the first day of trading and is donating all of their profits to the Pi Foundation, which supports charitable work for the farming and factory communities in India.

Dick Palmer, chairman of Gazelle Global, and principal and chief executive of City College Norwich, said: “The Pantrepreneur Challenge is a fun contest with a serious purpose that highlights the Gazelle approach of learning by doing.

“It is a real commercial entrepreneurial initiative that has inspired our students, and students in colleges around the country, to take part and develop their entrepreneurial skills.”

Other FE colleges in the competition include New College Nottingham (see picture below), North Hertfordshire College and Warwickshire College.

Aaron Autwal, marketing and finance officer for ‘Team Olympants’ at Warwickshire College, said: “It’s been really good, teaching us to set up a business and giving us a real idea of what it’s all about.

“Everyone has got their roles to do and it’s quite a fun experience as well.”

Students at Barking & Dagenham College are competing under the name ‘Pantastic’ and have finished seven designs which represent the Olympic and Paralympic values.

Kirsty Sedgwick, a graphic design student at the college and CEO of Pantastic, said: “This has been a great experience for us, not only have we learnt so many business skills and about selling, we are also raising money for a great charity.

“It’s not all about us winning a trip to India; it’s about raising awareness of this great charity and what it supports.”

The students will be up against fierce competition from Gloucestershire College (see picture below), Oxford & Cherwell Valley College and Highbury College, among others.

Ruth Wigham, project coordinator and curriculum manager of business, professional studies, ICT and the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College said: “It has been great to see different areas of the college pull together as a team and raise money for a great cause.

“It just goes to show that we all have an entrepreneur within us.”

Dominic Thompson, a business lecturer at Highbury College said: “The Highbury ‘pantrepreneurs’ have designed an excellent pair of pants that they are selling in aid of the charity set up by Pants to Poverty.

“They have a stall at the Love Southsea Festival and are also climbing Mount Snowdon in June to raise cash.

“It’s brilliant to see them applying their business knowledge and demonstrating entrepreneurial skills for such a good cause!”


Middlesbrough College:
Pants can be bought at the stalls students will be running every Wednesday in May

Gateshead College:
Contact the Automotive Skills Academy reception on 0191 490 2430. The students will also be selling them at a Northumbrian Water event

City College Norwich:
Team Squiggle’s pants can be ordered through their web site at

New College Nottingham:
Pants can be ordered using the following email address:

North Hertfordshire College:
Pants can be purchased searching ‘pants to poverty’ on Ebay, or by calling 01462 424242 and asking for the ‘kickass’ sales team

Warwickshire College:
Pants can be ordered using the following email address:

Amersham & Wycombe College:
Pants can be ordered by emailing: or calling 01494 585387

Barking & Dagenham College:
Pants can be ordered using the following email address:, or at the main reception of the Rush Green Campus

Gloucestershire College:
Pants can be ordered by emailing:, or by calling the Arts and Media staff room on 01452 563323

Highbury College:
Pants can be ordered by emailing:, or by visiting the stall at Barclays commercial road on May 30

Lewisham College:
Pants can be ordered via

Liverpool College:
The team will be selling their pants across all college sites from Monday 14th May and at at various locations across Liverpool in May & June

Oxford & Cherwell Valley College:
Call Paul Bates on 01865 550550 (ext 50717) or email

Stow College:
Call +44 (0)844 249 8585 or email and ask about pants

Walsall College:
The charity underwear is available to purchase from Bright Things, the College’s shop on Littleton Street West