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Oct 05, 2020

YES Alumni Spotlight - Lambrini Phillips


Did you know many of our YES students continue their business beyond the YES year? 

We recently caught up with YES Alumni, Lambrini who took on the challenge of continuing her company after YES. To hear more about her journey transitioning to a real company through a turbulent 2020 continue reading:


What was your favourite memory of the YES year?

YES was a surreal experience packed with several highlights. The Wellington Regional Awards was the ultimate highlight. Before participating in YES, I was shy and could never talk in a crowd of more than 20. The YES program had unleashed me to put myself out there and gain the confidence to talk in front of big crowds. 

Throughout the YES year our team had worked very hard and said “YES” to any opportunity we had. Whether it was going into different corporate spaces or schools to present our board game. Once we had finished our pitch at regionals, I felt as though all the drive and hard work our team put into Wero Mai had paid off. I can still feel the satisfaction after pitching and winning the Wellington Regional Awards.

What was the best piece of advice you were given through your YES journey?

At the beginning of my YES journey, I remember Terry Shubkin mentioned, “what sums up leadership as a whole is that business is about people”. As our company kept developing, I realised every aspect of our company revolved around people: your team, manufacturers, clients, and customers. This piece of information was the best advice as it drove our team to ensure we were creating the best product and drove me to get out there and network.

You were named CEO of the Year for 2019 what would be your 3 top tips to current YES CEOs?

1. My first tip would be to take any opportunity you can and put yourself out there. It is all about taking your company outside of your school and taking it out into the real world. Take advantage of the resources and networks the Young Enterprise Scheme gives you and show what you have to offer.
2. Selling your company is about storytelling. Just like a simple structure in a story; characters, setting, problem/solution and plot. Tell your market about the challenges you have gone through, how you faced them, how you developed your product/service and vision. You never know where it will take you. This will allow your target market to be attached and want to support your company. Furthermore, will show the passion you have towards your YES company.

3. Believing in your company is very important! I remember Holly Norton told me, “be driven by your passion”. Our company produced a Māori Board game, although I can’t speak fluently, I’m very passionate about Wero Mai as I am people orientated. I found a key aspect where I am strong at and my other teammates had found a strong connection in different areas. Therefore, we all worked on our strengths. This meant we all had a passion as well as a personal connection towards Wero Mai! By believing in your company it will show through your product/service, and customers will be able to see that.

You decided to continue Wero Mai beyond the YES year. Tell us more about what led to that decision?

Grace Gordon and I were so passionate about Wero Mai that it didn’t feel as though we were working, it consumed us throughout our YES year, and we didn’t want to say goodbye. We created a phenomenal product that allowed people to learn Te Reo Māori in a fun interactive way and we knew there was potential to expand. It would have been a waste to give it up. Our main goal is to increase awareness about Māori
language and culture, by continuing Wero Mai it’s going to allow the language to be integrated more into everyday life. 

How did you find the transition from a YES company to a real company operating outside of just the YES programme?

The transition wasn’t too bad. There are a few changes that occur when transitioning into a real company. It is the same drive and people skills used in the Young Enterprise Scheme only an ongoing process. We have had to register as a company and register our intellectual property. We did not have to experience these kinds of processes through YES but everyone who has been part of our journey has been helpful with us taking those steps. We have not been alone throughout our journey! I still keep in contact with our mentors and alumni for advice.

Did you envision at the beginning of 2019 that you would pursue your YES company outside of school?

At the beginning of the year, I thought Wero Mai would only last within the YES year, but since our product was so dearly loved and needed within society it was a no-brainer to pursue out of YES. I never would have thought this kind of success would come out of the program walking into the kickstart event at the beginning of 2019.

2020 as been a very unpredictable year. How has Covid-19 affected you and Wero Mai?

Wero Mai was affected in both negative and positive ways. Just before Covid-19 hit, we had sent in a bulk order to our manufacturer to print. Since they were closed, our customers had a huge delay with orders which then delayed our whole timeline for the year. Through this time though we knew COVID-19 was out of our hands stayed open-minded to see the positives despite the negative situations.

The silver-lining of COVID-19 has meant sales have increased. Families have had to be at home so many have been purchasing our game to play over the lockdown period. People have used the time during lockdown to learn and integrate more Te Reo which has been fantastic for us, despite the unfortunate situation of COVID-19. If you’re interested in our product, you can purchase one on our Wero Mai website for $39.99!

What has been the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of continuing your YEScompany?

The most challenging aspect of continuing Wero Mai for me is consistently working on the company as well as working full time at a local cafe. There were some weeks where I would put in many hours for Wero Mai and have meetings with mentors and then there were some weeks where I was not putting in any hours. What I find helps me remain consistent is organising my calendar and prioritising what needs to be done. Visual diagrams and lists motivate and remind me of what needs to be done. 

Seeing our customers playing the game and enjoying it has been the most rewarding aspect of our journey. It shows it’s been validated, and knowing we have created something that’s going to make a difference within society is rewarding. Earlier this year we made a post on a nation-wide Facebook group, NZ Made Products which got a lot of attention. Grace and I face timed each other many often and were reading all of the comments squealing with delight as everyone loved a concept that we had created.