26 April 2012

A big PLUS for Youth in Business

The team receives the big cheque from the Minister of Education
"WE WON!!!" The team lept up to recieve their huge cheque on the stage and I couldn't stop myself from yelling and clapping from the audience. The team, PLUS Archi-Design & Management from Tupou Tertiary Institute, had just won first place and $TOP 2,300 to start their business.

It was the culmination of the first stage of the Youth in Business awards that most of the secondary and tertiary schools have competed in for the past several weeks. Currently in its third year of operation, 11 secondary schools and 7 tertiary schools sent teams to take part in the competition. Each school's team had been working to develop their own startup business, which were judged in ten-minute presentations last week. Ideas ranged from coconut cookies and cleaning services to PLUS Archi-Design & Management, an architectural design services business - the tertiary idea that won.

The team celebrates, including the Tonga Business Enterprise Centre (TBEC)  manager, who was one of the judges

I'd been asked by my (now) friend and (former) TDB colleague Sina to be a mentor for the team, and together with her husband, the team's tutor, we enjoyed helping the team work through their ideas, revise the business plan, and hone their presentation. The business idea is a great one: the team members are advanced architectural design students, some with former experience in construction management, and their business essentially provides low-cost conception, drafting, and design services to higher-end homeowners across Tonga. In several years, they also plan to branch into actual project management services.

The Dean of Tupou Tertiary Institute (far right)
provided a lot of support to the team
When they showed me a sample design package they'd created for their first customer, I saw the beauty of what they were selling: the tangible inspiration to make homeowners dreams a reality. This first customer wanted to build an addition to his house, and thanks to their services, he was able to see exactly what it would look like, what it would cost, and what it would take to get there.

During the next 5 months, all the qualifying teams will start and run their business to see how it fares. The teams that do well will be assessed in the next round of the competition, and the narrowed-down list of winners selected will recieve additional seed funding and advising services. Our team has good cards in its hand: it's just won the top amount of seed funding, has enthusiasm and skills, and an excited group of mentors supporting it along the way.

The excited group of mentors, and a young "mentor" too!

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