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Sep 23, 2015

New Zealand students win international business competition

Two Auckland students have won an international business competition, pocketing $US4000 in prize money. They qualified for the competition by setting up their own small business through The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme.

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Wendy Lee and Aidan Scott are the 2015 Asia-Pacific champions of the FedEx Express Junior Achievement International Trade Challenge. They won the title in Singapore last month, beating students from nine other countries to take the title.

The International Trade Challenge was run over three days. Working in pairs, each team was given the same brief: to “create a cohesive market entry strategy plan for a fast food restaurant chain, which also addresses an economic issue in Cuba.” Students had less than 48 hours to research and create their answer to the brief, before pitching to the judging panel on day three.

Wendy says the time pressure was intense. “It was crazy – I’ve never had so little sleep! I was surviving on adrenaline and iced coffee, but I genuinely loved the competition.”

Wendy and Aidan’s winning idea was called ‘Casa Cuba’. Their plan was to develop small home-based restaurants to help small companies grow. Aidan and Wendy also planned to contract local farmers in order to guarantee a consistent supply of food, a major issue in Cuba.

 “Our core target market was people who already had an established ‘paladar’ restaurant – a small family-run restaurant operating from their own home,” says Aidan. “These were our franchisees, and as they were existing ‘restaurants’, it meant their setup costs were very minimal. We would offer training in business management and take a commission from their sales.”

The marking criteria asked students to clearly define the target market and their demographics. Wendy and Aidan also had to explain their approach to marketing and distribution and creatively showcase their business concept in just seven minutes.

Aidan says he and Wendy thought carefully about why families would want to become involved in Casa Cuba. “The benefits for the franchisees are that they would not only get training and ongoing support for their business, but they would also benefit from economies of scale. Our group of restaurants would have an increased buying power, and marketing economies of scale meant we would be able to launch international marketing campaigns targeting potential customers who were travelling to Cuba.”

The International Trade Challenge is run each year by Junior Achievement Worldwide. Young Enterprise is the New Zealand representative of Junior Achievement and selects the national team from students taking part in The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES).

BUILDING ON CLASSROOM LEARNING

Keryn Russell is the teacher in charge of Young Enterprise at Westlake Boys’ High School. She says the International Trade Challenge helped Aidan develop in many ways.

“This competition gave Aidan great perspective on what’s possible in the commerce field. It helped him apply theory into real world examples and vice versa, and also gave him the opportunity to improve his communication, social skills, presentation and team work. He now sees the relevance of those skills – he gets why they’re so important.”

Aidan says taking part in both the YES programme and the International Trade Challenge has changed his future plans. “I’ve now opened my mind up a lot more to the idea of entrepreneurship. I’ve realised now how important it is to follow what you enjoy, rather than what is expected of you. For me, the idea of starting, maintaining and growing a business is something I seriously want to do with my life.”

Wendy agrees, saying the whole experience was significant for her. “I was never sure about wanting to study business, but I’ve enjoyed it so much. In life, there will be times when you’re expected to perform under tricky conditions. It was amazing to experience that before I leave school.”

“There was such a strong focus on team work too – with only two people in each team, we really had to work well together. I’m really proud of what Aidan and I did.”

LEARNING BY DOING – THE YES EXPERIENCE

Wendy and Aidan are just two of the students taking part in YES this year. The year-long programme sees senior secondary students create and run a small business. YES can be used to deliver Level 2 or 3 Business Studies Achievement Standards, or it can be offered as an extracurricular programme.

“YES fits really well with the business studies achievement standards,” says Lucy Wymer, a former teacher who now supports YES students and teachers in Auckland. “In particular, YES is ideal for delivering the marketing strands (2.4 and 3.4) and the ‘carry out a business’ strands (2.6 and 3.6). The business that the students create through the YES programme gives them the contextual knowledge needed for those standards.”

There are 136 schools involved in YES in 2015. The 2800 participating students have formed 630 companies and brought new products or services to market. After starting off trying to make a nut butter, Wendy’s YES company pivoted and is now creating study notes for secondary students. Aidan’s company has produced a range of t-shirts designed specifically for fitness enthusiasts.

The programme sees students create and research their business idea in term 1, while simultaneously sourcing startup capital. In term 2 the focus shifts to production and marketing, with students working with a range of suppliers in their community. Students sell their product or service in terms 2 and 3, before winding up the business in term 4. Each YES company must pitch their business in a ‘Dragons’ Den’ event, keep track of their company finances, and create an annual review at the end of term 3 to reflect on their learning and achievements.

THE TEACHING AND LEARNING CONTEXT

 Steve Aldhamland has been using the YES programme to deliver business studies achievement standards for many years. He offers YES as part of his Level 3 business studies class at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch.

“I offer two internals (3.4 and 3.6) and two externals (3.1 and 3.2),” says Steve. “Having Level 2 literacy is the only prerequisite for the class, although I find it does help their learning if students have taken or are taking accounting as well.”

Steve says the platform provided by YES helps him to deliver his internal achievement standards in particular. “3.6 requires students to get feedback from business mentors. YES provides opportunities for that feedback really well at various events throughout the year. There’s also a regional coordinator who helps teachers find local business people willing to mentor students through the programme, and regional and national competitions to provide extra motivation.”

Steve believes the authenticity of the YES programme is one of its best features. “It’s authentic and that’s really huge. Students know their business is more than just a school project – it’s real and they connect with the community in a range of ways. From a teaching perspective, I don’t know how else you could authentically connect students with business professionals.”

By Sasha Webb (originally printed in NZ Education Gazette)