YES Alumni

Did you know we have an  incredible network  of alumni who have participated in YES over the past   40 years? 

The YES journey doesn’t end at the conclusion of the programme. There are many ways you can connect and collaborate with likeminded YES alum Including exclusive events, networking opportunities, connecting with the start up eco system and volunteering and giving back to YES and current students.

Join the Alumni whānau

We’re here to support you through your YES journey and beyond!

Alumni Awards

Nominations are now open for the YES Alumni Awards 2024!

Nominate using the button below:

Check out our 2023 Alumni Awards Winners

One To Watch - Jack and Archie MacDonald

As YES students, Jack and Archie founded TotalCard, and have continued their business after finishing school. Their company is developing digital business cards out of a sustainable wool-based plastic alternative which enables users to tap their contact details onto smartphones. They are looking to diversify into other existing card markets with the wool material developed by New Zealand company, Shear Edge. In 2023, Jack and Archie have made a positive impact on the business community, including supporting YES students with advice and mentorship, completing the Icehouse First Cut challenge and securing deals to provide wool-based business cards for nationwide companies.

Emerging - Abbie Wood

Abbie founded The Together Collective, which celebrates the work of young artists in Aotearoa through sharing their story and designs on limited-edition clothing. A percentage of each sale goes directly to the artist to support them. She also runs Grow Easy, an indoor plant and botanical gift business.

Abbie is studying for a Bachelor of Design Innovation at Victoria University of Wellington, and is a Board Trustee for Startup Taranaki – a group of volunteers committed to creating an inclusive, sustainable and innovative start-up community. She led a 2023 GEN NZ Unconference session on youth entrepreneurship, has presented to school groups encouraging young entrepreneurs, and is on the organising committee for Slush'D, Wellington.

Environmental Leader - Finn Ross

As a PhD candidate at Deakin University, Finn is researching seaweed as a climate solution and is working on several blue carbon projects in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia.

Finn is the founder of Carbonz, which has removed over 4,000 tonnes of carbon in native forests and works with Kiwi companies to pair their emissions with high-quality carbon removal on New Zealand farms.

He is also the founder and Co-Chair of Future Farmers New Zealand, where he has facilitated four hui for young people around a new vision for the sector.

Finn also manages the conservation, biodiversity and carbon budget at Lake Hawea Station and recently led the carbon removal work behind the world’s first carbon-zero shoe with All Birds.

Previous community and environmental initiatives include founding The Seaweed Solution concept, as well as Bomb Bucha, NZ’s first 200% climate-positive company, a not-for-profit called Let Them Fish, and contributions to the genesis of Live Ocean.

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. Finn believes the ultimate measure of his impact will be in the tonnes of carbon sequestered via native forests and blue carbon habitats through Carbonz and in his PhD research.

Community Leader - Charlotte Print

Charlotte is the CEO of Velocity, where she leads a team of 30 students to inspire the upcoming generation of innovators through workshops, challenges and community events.

In 2021, she co-founded Kairos, a not-for-profit that provides low-decile high schoolers with interactive workshops to bridge the gap between secondary and tertiary education. The Kairos team aims to connect with low-decile high schoolers to give them the confidence to excel in the next stage of their education.

Charlotte is passionate about the brilliance of young people and grassroots initiatives.

Company of the Year - Education Perfect (Craig Smith)

Education Perfect was founded by YES alum Craig Smith and his brother Shane in 2007, with Craig holding the role of CEO until 2018.

The company uses learning design drawn from evidence-based research to save teachers time and create a user experience that is engaging, adaptive, and effective. Education Perfect is now a global business with a strong New Zealand-based team.

They have employed hundreds of New Zealanders and continue to innovate on a global scale. Education Perfect is digitising curriculum and providing immediate diagnostic support to learners, across the globe.

Cultural Leader - Natalia Fareti

Natalia actively engages with and empowers Pasifika communities through her involvement in Pacific economic policy, contributions to regional economic development and supporting Pasifika networks at a governance level. She is Co-chair of Wellington City Council’s Pacific Advisory Group, and board member of the Wellington Pasifika Business Network.

Her impact on the Pasifika community is also evident in her previous roles, including her involvement in the Wellington Pasifika startup weekend.

She also led the South Pacific strategy at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand,  was Senior Policy Advisor Pasifika at the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and was President of the Wellington Central branch of PACIFICA Inc.

Alumna of the Year - Steph Benseman

In her role as Investment Principal and Head of Community at Icehouse Ventures, Steph leads investments with purpose, including backing Excellent, a female-founded, employee experience startup, and KiwiFibre, a student-led, natural composite material startup.

She has launched and grown events to support the 300+ companies that Icehouse Ventures have backed, such as startup showcases and founder gatherings, which bring leaders together and inspire growth. She is involved in the First Cut community and fund which provides equitable opportunities for young founders.

This year, Steph was recognised in the Asia Forbes 30 Under 30 list for her contributions to finance and venture capital.

Innovator of the Year - Lisa King

Lisa’s business, AF Drinks, takes an innovative approach to product and marketing. AF Drinks use its range of non-alcoholic drinks to spark conversations around not drinking, making it fun, positive and aspirational.

Their unique marketing strategy makes not drinking aspirational and has created a movement that people want to be a part of. Their product takes a food science approach, including their “Afterglow” ingredient, which mimics the warming effect of alcohol – an approach that has won them many international awards.

All of this, while creating complex, sophisticated drinks that taste just as good as their alcoholic counterparts.

Lisa is dedicated to building strong and commercially successful social businesses and bringing meaningful change in society. She has mentored many YES alumni and is a huge supporter of the entrepreneurial community.

She channels her entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking in ways that make the world a better place.

Distinguished, and Supreme Alumni - Rachel Taulelei

Rachel is a prominent business leader and a strong advocate for the Māori economy and sustainability in the food and beverage sector.

Her commitment to kaitiakitanga has been evident throughout her career, from founder of sustainable seafood company Yellow Brick Road, to her time as Chief Executive Officer of Māori-owned food and beverage company, Kono, and now in her current role as co-founder of business design and brand strategy firm, Oho.

Rachel presently chairs Moana NZ, the Wellington Regional Stadium Trust (better known as Sky Stadium), and the Fonterra Sustainability Panel. She is a director for The Warehouse Group, Sealord, and ANZCO Foods, and acts as an advisor to venture capital firm Movac. She is also a member of the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council and Chaired through New Zealand’s 2021 hosting year.

Thanks to our 2023 Alumni Award Sponsors:

Keen to stay involved?

YES Alumni Facebook Group

Your go to place to stay up to date with all things YES, connect with fellow alumni and find out about exclusive opportunities and events!

Alumni Networking events

We aim to host exclusive Alumni events across the country each year. these events allow our alumni to connect and collaborate with like minded people, hear from some great inspirational guest speakers, network with the best of New Zealand's entrepreneurs and just have a good old catch up! Stay up to date for event details on the Alumni Facebook page.

Look out on our Events Page for upcoming networking events.

Volunteer & giveback

There’s plenty of ways to give back to Young Enterprise and current YES students including mentoring a YES company, attending your regional YES events, mentoring at National events like Entrepreneurs in Action.

The seed for a lot of amazing companies has been planted through the Young Enterprise Scheme.

All the below companies have been founded by YES alum. We hope to see your company up there one day soon!