I had the pleasure of meeting and staying with Ben’s Aunt and Uncle, Jo and Chris, at their place in Lower Hutt when we were travelling in the mystery van down to Wellington from Auckland. Jo has been working for an organisation called The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme for the last 15 years.
The organisation is run nationwide in New Zealand and is a NFP, funded by sponsors, partners and donations. The concept is brilliant: they run a program in high schools to teach school kids the concept of, merits and inner workings and processes of starting a company.
The students are put into teams and guided through the process of coming up with and implementing a commercial business idea. They must assign roles in the company to each team member and go about the process of developing, producing, marketing and ultimately selling their idea to the public. The company can be anything they are able to imagine, it can produce or source a product or deliver a service. Funding for their business needs to be secured via fundraising, finding investors, putting in their own capital etc. All aspects need to be considered and managed including supply chain, prototyping, production, software, legal, finance and learning the intricacies of relationship management with all stakeholders.
Along the way, the teams get support and guidance from teachers, the YES team, and they even get assigned a business mentor from within the community. Aside from the fact they get to learn about business in a fun and hands-on way, they are also gaining invaluable life and people skills which will set them up nicely for future employment. Why in the heck was this not happening at my school?! (damn, does that make me really old…?)
There are several awards and prizes up for grabs including prize money, scholarships and recognition in several categories, and credits can count towards the students’ final school results. Many of the program graduates have gone on to launch incredible and commercially successful businesses including the likes of Xero and Charlie’s Juice.
I think the YES program has so many merits. Entrepreneurship is an important commercial sector, the world needs innovation and creativity in order to continue to evolve, especially in the current political, economic and environmental climate. The current system is not working as far as I am concerned, and the only way to fix it is through different ways of doing things. Jason Kimberly of Cool Australia (an organisation with similar values to YES, which I write about here), comments on the fact that there is little to no merit in trying to change the minds of older generations. They are set in their ways and focused almost solely on growth and commercial gain*. Young people are tomorrow’s business (and world), leaders.
We, along with government and the school system, need to be nurturing young people as our biggest and most valuable asset. What else should we be teaching them that will enable them to deal with the difficulties that are awaiting them in a world that is being threatened by changing climates, mass species extinction and an ever increasing social inequality?
*I partly agree. Personally, I do also believe that change can come about via older generations, though maybe change here will be slower and more resistant.
Young Enterprise is a NFP organisation and relies on funding from sponsors and partners. You can support the businesses set up by the YES teams at the Marketplace here, buy YES merchandise here, or get in touch here to see how you can get involved as a supporter or mentor.
PS: Ian Hunter has written a great book called The Young New Zealander’s guide to Entrepreneurship, which essentially summarises all of the modules included in the program. Jo was lovely enough to lend me a copy and I definitely recommend it for anyone (young or old), thinking of starting a business. It is a nice, succinct and informative guide on all things you need to consider to come up with, develop and launch your own business idea. Get into it!
Image credits, left to right: instantfall.tumblr.com, tigerinajar.blogspot.com, bippittybopittyboo.tumblr.com, Kobus Faber