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Inspiring Young Entrepreneurs

What does the word ‘enterprise’ mean? People define it in many ways. For some, it has connotations of innovation and endeavour while others think of the ‘number-eight-wire mentality’.

3 November 2021

At Young Enterprise, we think an enterprising person is someone who is a creative and innovative thinker, can recognise opportunities and is willing to take risks.

This is what New Zealand needs – enterprising people lead our business community, nurture our young people and support our most vulnerable.

Our organisation was created in the 1980s to give school students access to authentic learning experiences. We think it’s critical that every student in this country gets to ‘learn by doing’. In 1980, we piloted The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES), before offering it nationwide in 1981. In 2015 we have more than 3,000 students taking part in YES, and they have formed more than 600 companies.

YES is an incredible experiential programme. Our secondary school students set up and run a small business in the space of four school terms. They must create a new product or service and bring it to market. These Years 12 and 13 students learn about key aspects of business including planning, raising start-up capital, prototyping, production, marketing and sales.

Life-changing experience

Feedback from our alumni tells us that while those key business skills are important, they see YES as providing other more valuable benefits. Students learn by experiencing the importance of innovative thinking; in a 2013 survey, more than 80 per cent of our YES alumni identified teamwork and confidence as key skills learned through the programme.

YES has a big effect on our students, and for some the impact is huge. Thirty-two per cent of the alumni surveyed changed their study or career pathway as a result of YES. Jake Millar is one example – Jake turned down a law scholarship to create Oompher (www.oompher.com), which he recently sold to Careers New Zealand.

More than a lemonade stand

The products and services our YES companies create are not to be laughed at. We know that students are creative by nature, and our YES participants demonstrate that every year.

A group of Auckland students created an award-winning olive oil in 2012, with some of the profits supporting Life Education’s ‘Harold the Giraffe’ programme. In 2013 two Taranaki students developed a UV-monitoring wristband to combat sunburn. Last year a Manawatu YES company sold footstools made using recycled soft drink containers. This year we have students turning food waste into biofuel; creating manuka honey face masks; and upcycling used road signs into clocks and artwork.

YES is designed for senior secondary school students, but we quickly recognised that younger kids were also keen to develop their entrepreneurial talents. Young Enterprise now has eight programmes, which cover students aged five to 18. We also offer financial-education board games and resource packs that help students develop their financial capability.

We hold events up and down the country, which bring our students together, and many have an entrepreneurial focus. ‘Enterprise in Action’ is an annual event open only to YES students. Over the course of 48 hours, students work in teams and compete in two international competitions. This year, their challenges were:

• To design an innovative exhibit that informs communities, government and the media about the ways light affects our lives.

• To develop a market-entry strategy to export an oil-based product to Saudi Arabia.

Working under severe time constraints, our students came up with incredible ideas and pitched business concepts less than 12 hours after first hearing about the challenge.


We often get asked how parents can support their children. Our suggestions include:

1. Bring financial education into your home: your children will benefit from taking part in activities that revolve around the concepts of earning, saving, spending and sharing. This could mean talking about the benefits of saving pocket money or getting your children to manage the grocery budget.

2. Talk to your school about Young Enterprise programmes: there are literally hundreds of programmes and resources available to schools today, and there is not enough space in the school timetable for all of them. Let your local teachers know that you’d like to see your children taking part in Young Enterprise programmes.

3. Encourage creative thinking: you’d be amazed what young people can do when given a challenge. Give your children some random objects from around the home (a pot, chalk, playing cards and string) and ask them to invent something. You’ll be amazed what they come up with.

First published 20 May, 2016

By Terry Shubkin

The editorial below reflects the views of the editorial contributor only and content may be out of date. This article is sourced from a previous JUNO issue. JUNO’s content comes from sources that it considers accurate, but we do not guarantee that the content is accurate. Charts are visually indicative only. JUNO does not contain financial advice as defined by the Financial Advisers Act 2008. Consult a suitably qualified financial adviser before making investment decisions.

Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.


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