Business, Education · 9 Mar 2021

High School Students Turn Entrepreneurs

Aimee Wilson

Aimee Wilson


More than 130 Southland and Queenstown Lakes high school students are taking part in this year’s Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES).

The scheme is all about helping students unleash their inner entrepreneur, and as a result, students created over 1000 companies in 2020. 

 Many of these companies made a profit, and about 20% of them are still operating.  YES isn’t just about the business though, it’s also about helping students to be innovative and creative, develop work-ready skills and an entrepreneurial spirit.  

The first event of the YES year is KickStart | Timata where students are introduced to the scheme, and have a chance to work in teams to brainstorm some potential business ideas, chat through these ideas with some local business people, and learn some top tips about different areas of business.

Southland YES co-ordinátor (student wrangler) Joanne O’Connor said “the ideation part is crucial as the student-led teams learn the process of starting a business, researching their respective industry, developing the product and launching their idea into the market.” 

Invercargill YES event mentors. Photo: supplied

She said the amount of community, and business support was outstanding.  

Mentors are sourced from the local business community to coach the students at the event and throughout the year.  The mentors are genuinely inspired by these teens, Joanne said.

YES is managed by the Young Enterprise Trust, a Wellington based charity which is focused on building a pipeline of entrepreneurial-minded young people who will boost the prosperity in New Zealand. 

Locally, YES is co-ordinated by the Southland Chamber of Commerce, as part of its focus on business viability, with the support of Regional Partner Southern Institute of Technology (SIT). 

Robbie Fleck from What’s On Invers with one of the business teams. Photo: supplied

Other local sponsors include Craigs Design & Print, South Port NZ Limited, Findex, What’s on Invers, COIN South, VetSouth NZ, Community Trust South and Invercargill Licensing Trust.  

Louise Evans from Coin South said every year the initial ideas get better and better. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the students bring these innovative, and in many instances socially impactful ideas to life.”

She said understanding their customers will be key for creating a product with a clear value proposition. 

“It’s great to see many of the students already narrowing down who they are specifically solving for, and who they are not.”

Photo: supplied

What’s On Invers founder Mike Sanford said it was great to see the enthusiasm some of the teams have for their business.

Throughout the year, events organised to support the students include KickStart | Timata, The Business Pitch,  Market Day at Southern Farmers Market, Southland Regional Awards and the official National Awards Gala Dinner.  

The schools involved are Southland Girls’ High School, Southland Boys High School, James Hargest College, Aparima College,  as well as Wakatipu High School and Mt Aspiring College.