By Katy Gosset
Table tennis brings out the competitive streak and these young business people hope to be hitting the right shots in the marketplace soon.
Ethical clothing, a delivery service for disability equipment and a new art gallery for Christchurch are among the business ideas that have been propagated at the University of Canterbury's Entrepreneurship Centre.
The UC Innovators programme brought 35 students together over the summer on a business scholarship.
Individually they worked on their product or service projects whilst brainstorming ideas and benefiting from a range of guest speakers and mentors.
Little Yellow Bird Takes Flight
When Samantha Jones left the military, she was used to wearing a uniform. She struggled to find ethically manufactured clothing and decided to make her own. Little Yellow Bird, a corporate apparel company, was born.
The clothing made from organic cotton by women at a certified fair trade factory in Bangalore.
Ms Jones says each woman receives a living wage as well as health care and customers can identify which worker made each item of clothing.
“On our shirts we actually have a tag with an area where the lady that sewed it signs it.” The company’s website then displays photos of and information about all the women who make the clothing. “So you can actually log in and see who made your shirt.”
She visited the factory and was impressed by the workers’ generosity.
"These people really have very, very little compared to us but they’re the most generous people I’ve come ever across.”
And she says this made her even more motivated to help the local people by providing work and educational opportunities.
Ms Jones' business partner, Hannah Duder, says one point of difference for the company is that customers can sponsor an individual worker.
She says this is already happening with Little Yellow Bird’s first corporate client, Woo Hoo NZ Tax Refunds .
“We’ve matched them with a girl in India who they are now sponsoring so she can finish her education this year.”
- Read more about Little Yellow Bird on The Wireless
When Courtney Green’s father needed disability equipment, she discovered it wasn’t that easy to come by. She believes this was because many people don’t return it to hospitals when they’ve finished with it.
“There’s a massive number of people in New Zealand that don’t have access to disability equipment… resources aren’t being utilised very well.”
She and Harry Wadell have set up Health Logistics, a pick up and delivery business that would work alongside an inventory system.
Mr Wadell says the returns should be streamlined.
“We need to … make it so equipment has less downtime when it can’t be used. And so staff don’t spend too much time managing equipment when they should be working with patients.”
Focus on Photography
Hannah Watkinson’s business, In Situ Photography Project, is already up and running.
Ms Watkinson has gained the free use of a central site in which she hopes to promote local exhibitions.
She says the project was motivated by a scarcity of photographic galleries in Christchurch
“There’s a lot of talented people in the South Island and they don’t get opportunities to show their work.”
She is currently running the gallery “for the love of it” but hopes to secure Creative New Zealand funding and corporate sponsorship to make the project sustainable and to draw a wage.
In the meantime, she says she’s calling in favours and devoting as many voluntary hours to it as she can.
“Knowing that I would happily do this for free means that I should definitely be doing it.”.
“She’s a pretty big job but it’s worth it.”
“The Best Job in the World”
Rachel Wright is the centre’s operations director, a doctor of biochemistry and a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
“My passion is to expose young people to entrepreneurship and innovation and see what an exciting career it is.”
She says when students begin the programme they often look petrified, wondering what they’ve got themselves into.
But she believes they make huge progress during what's often a challenging period.
“This will be the first time in their lives where there’s no set deadline. They set everything.”
She’s also impressed to see that 50 % of this year’s projects display an element of social responsibility.
“It’s a really nice thing to see amongst these young people. They care about the communities, they care about the world and they want to have the right impact on the world.”
Over the course of the summer, the students have brainstormed, helped each work out problems and played a little table tennis on the side.
Rachel Wright says, in that time, the students' personal development has been immense and it’s been satisfying to see their final pitches to an audience of about 100 hundred people.
“It’s probably one of the proudest moments of the year; seeing the transformation that many of the students have undergone.”
“I think I’ve got the best job in the world. It’s really great to be able to help the students go on this journey.”