More than 200 students in 50-plus teams from 12 Hawke’s Bay secondary schools are about to tackle the hard end of their year in the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES).
By now they have registered their companies with YES, come up with a product or service, spent time with their mentors, researched any laws or bylaws they need to comply with (particularly related to food and drink), presented their idea in the ‘Dragons’ Den’, and formatted business and communications plans.
In June they will launch their products having organised production and planned the sales process, before preparing their annual review at the end of the competition.
The national competition has been held annually since the 1980s. It has an impressive list of alumni including Hawke’s Bays’ Rod Drury, of Xero fame. The programme gave year 12 and 13 students hands on "very real" business experience that provided them with skills and knowledge they would take into adulthood, said YES regional coordinator Karla Lee.
"These students come into the programme keen but with little or no knowledge of the planning and processes they need to go through to take a product or idea to market.
"By the end of the year, they have amassed an amazing range of skills that can be used in whatever they do in the future. It is just amazing watching them develop."
One of those key skills was market research. "In business you must do this type of research. The teams need to be sure their product is something people will want to buy and that it has a point of difference from other like-products on the market." At the end of the year some teams will have products that could continue to market; others a company that is saleable.
Hastings District Council supports the programme. The sponsorship fits within Council’s economic development aims which included encouraging business education. Council’s Economic Development and Urban Affairs Committee chairman, councillor Damon Harvey, said the programme was invaluable. "It’s fantastic to have budding entrepreneurs and business leaders from our local schools daring to have a go at creating a product or service and taking it to market. It’s not about whether it’s a success or failure but the learnings along the way and developing confidence and business acumen."
One of the next big steps for the competitors would be the sale of their wares at the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market in Hastings on August 13.
"That can be a tough day for some of them. A few are very anxious; others take a little while to realise they have to promote their product, rather than passively wait for people to show interest and buy it. It can be a real lightbulb moment," said Ms Lee.
The teams all had plenty of help available to them along the way, from their school teachers, YES roaming teacher and mentors who came from the Hawke’s Bay business community, to Ms Lee and the Dragons’ Den panel.
The Dragons’ Den was a valuable process held halfway through the year, said Ms Lee. "The students pitch for YES competition marks in the heats and then the top six teams pitch for a piece of a $1500 prize pool. The teams present their ideas and their business processes so far and get feedback on their value. It can be very enlightening for them; giving them the confidence to proceed or encouraging them to re-think at a point when they still have time to make meaningful change."
The winning Hawke’s Bay team will attend the national competition, held in Wellington in December.
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