Students share start-up plans

Toi Ohomai and University of Waikato students with business mentors at the Project Ignite Showcase event held in Tauranga last week. Supplied photo.

While most of us enjoyed a long hot summer at the beach, a group of Toi Ohomai and University of Waikato students have devoted their entire holidays to try and turn their ‘start-up’ ideas into business ventures.

The eight students, who all study in Tauranga, took part in the 10-week Project Ignite entrepreneurial programme. They unveiled their concepts at a showcase event at the Bongard centre in Tauranga last Friday.

Each student received a $5000 summer scholarship and 10 weeks of intensive entrepreneurial mentoring to progress their ideas. They worked with local business woman and entrepreneur Tina Jennen, start-up coach Josh Saunders and other business mentors to validate their idea, develop a revenue model and refine their business pitch.

Toi Ohomai student Sarah Baker is studying Culinary Arts (Level 5) and signed up for the programme just two days before the entries closed last year, not thinking she would get in. Her pitch to develop a range of vegan and gluten-free ice creams on a stick was a hit with the judges – as well as the audience on showcase night, who got to taste her product.

“Project Ignite was an awesome experience,” says Sarah. “A big part of the programme was talking to potential customers to validate our ideas, which helped a lot. I learnt how to reach out to people and to know when to bring someone else on board when I need help.”

Of The Earth ice creams are made from coconut milk. Sarah hopes to get an investor on board so she can launch her ice creams as soon as possible, initially at local markets.

Jacob Van Silfhout studied a Bachelor of Science, specialising in computer science, at the University of Waikato in Tauranga. He is developing a mobile app for tourists providing relevant information about key sites in Tauranga as well as top spots off the beaten track. Combining augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), visitors would use the app to take a guided tour with “interesting and engaging” commentary or, before they leave home, they would be able to virtually ‘visit’ the site.

“I didn’t realise how much work it would take as an entrepreneur, but at the same time I didn’t realise how many sectors I already had access to. Project Ignite was a fantastic learning experience,” says Jacob.

Once underway, he hopes to take his Mixed Realities NZ app throughout New Zealand and ultimately, feature tourist sites around the world.

Project Ignite programme manager Susanne Irwin, who is also the manager of Priority One’s Ignition coworking space, is delighted with the students’ achievements.

“This is the third Project Ignite programme we have run and the calibre of applicants this year was very high. There are some amazing young people out there with incredible ideas and lots of tenacity.

“It is so encouraging to see the huge development of each student over the course of 10 weeks and I know that each of them has a very promising future ahead.”

Created in 2015, Project Ignite is run as a joint programme by Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, the University of Waikato and Priority One. Local Bay of Plenty business people and start-up experts offer specialist advice to guide students in their entrepreneurial journey.

Five Toi Ohomai students and three University of Waikato students were selected from a group of applicants. Students were able to work individually or in teams and had to ‘sell’ their ideas to a judging panel to get accepted into the programme.

Other Project Ignite Students:

Olive Holland

Course: Bachelor of Creative Industries, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Business idea: Interactive online sales tool for wholesalers and buyers in the fashion industry.

Cheyenne Rose

Course: Bachelor of Creative Industries, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Business idea: Creating a space where artists can perform and exhibit their artwork; primarily for emerging artists.

Lyndon Sheehan

Course: Bachelor of Creative Industries, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Business idea: Producing unique leather and canvas bags using locally sourced materials, focusing on quality, longevity and value.

Travis Wylie

Course: Diploma in Applied Computing (Level 5), Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology

Business idea: Audience engagement tool for live streamers.

Jessie Elvie

Course: Bachelor of Management Studies, University of Waikato

Business idea: Creating a range of gluten-free, vegan, organic snack foods in a hamper, which can be ordered online.

Lily Vitoria

Course: Bachelor of Science, University of Waikato

Business idea: Creating and selling selection of t-shirts with a maritime theme, produced in an environmentally friendly manner in order to raise awareness as well as serving as a fundraiser for shark conservation and other charities.


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