“What a line up!” was the reaction heard from the Judges table at the 2019 Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) Tauranga Regional Finals last month. The four leading business people came to Basestation coworking space to judge to business pitches from year 12 and 13 students. They left with a new level of faith in young people and their ability to lead.

A mix of successful entrepreneurs – business, finance and marketing experts – the four judges volunteered their time to share feedback with students and teachers. They were seeing the results of the 30-week scheme which has become a key element of business studies classes at Colleges in the Bay of Plenty.  Their task, choose one team to represent the Bay of Plenty at YES Nationals in Wellington on December 4th. 

Impressed by what they saw they gave the following feedback and reflections to be shared with the community at large.

Jessica Barnett, Head of Marketing at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, long-standing sponsor and supporter of YES said, “what a treat to see such a showcase of the talent of our future business leaders. What is clear is that [the future of work] will not require the same skills that have served us during the last century or even the last decade… to be able to give these young people a platform to practise and grow new skills, to become stronger and more flexible towards an unpredictable future is one of the main reasons Toi Ohomai is behind YES as a sponsor.”

Zak Meyers, Co-founder of SoundSwitch, still headquartered at Basestation subsequent to its acquisition in 2018 by a UK company, was enthusiastic about the participants and the awareness of changing priorities.

“The quality of the event and the calibre of the pitches was surprising. The immense clarity towards the social and environmental impact on top of the list for each of the business models was an eye-opener to how involved this generation is. It shows a generational effect and shifts in thinking.”

Zak, who started SoundSwitch in his teens has hopes that all the participants will use their talent, learnings and look at an entrepreneurial path moving forward. “Entrepreneurship is a viable career option and I hope the students look at it favourably when considering immediate further education; or continue to pursue opportunities alongside their studies. Universities will be there to attend at any point should that come to be the right decision, however, time always marches on. What's the downside?”

Paula Clode, Financial Controller for Independent Stevedoring, has attended many YES events and was interested to sport a shift. She said, “YES is special, the programme has developed into something impressive… beyond expectations. The current teams of entrepreneurs are more skilled and more business savvy than ever before.”

Paula would like to see more people involved with YES and Venture Centre’s work with young entrepreneurs. “This programme gives them an opportunity to learn some of the lessons in business while being supported in a nurturing environment. It also challenges them to make the most of the opportunity and support the community can provide and pushes them outside their comfort zone to allow them to stretch a little and see what they are capable of.”

Rachael Gemming, Earnst and Young (EY) Associate Director noted the obvious passion, creativity and commitment evident across all teams. “They normalised and embraced non-financial aspects of their businesses such as sustainability, social and environmental responsibility.”

“They were passionate about the problems they were solving, their products, their teams. All were genuinely wanting to make a difference. There was a maturity of thinking and approaches. I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed, nor did I realise I would leave wanting to buy all of their products!” she said. 

When asked what she would like to see happen next for these young leaders Rachel said, “I would love to see the teams continue to be supported and develop their businesses as they had unique, compelling ideas and enthusiasm. I’d love to see them collaborate with others... Maybe the next chapter could be the creation of an online YES marketplace.”

“Long term, I’d like these youth continue growing their entrepreneurial mindset – I have my eyes on them for future EY Entrepreneur of the Year nominees!”

Venture Centre’s delivery of YES, which served over 130 Bay of Plenty students in 2019, ensures a good base of enterprise building knowledge, experience and practical, applied skills. These elements, coupled with the start of a support network of peers, mentors and experts makes a great base for any enterprise the student participants might want to explore in the future. It is just one important part of the pipeline of local talent who are already developing their approach to business with a broader, more inclusive range priorities.

To join the community of people offering support to YES students in 2020 click here.https://www.madventures.nz/madpeople 

Follow YES 2019’s generous volunteer judges on LinkedIn:

Jessica Barnett, Head of marketing and communications and Toi Ohomai:


Zak Meyers, CEO of SoundSwitch:


Paula Clode, Financial Controller for independent stevedoring:


Rachael Gemming, Associate Director at EY: 



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