Challenging the belief that the only end-goal for business is to make money, the students in the latest Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp intake are firmly focused on creating profit-generating businesses that also aim to do good in their communities.
“It’s great to see so many teams with goals that extend past just making a profit,” says Emily Sullivan, Bootcamp Programme Manager and Viclink’s Student Entrepreneurship Manager. “They want their businesses to have real impact for their customers and users."
She says team Band Up is a case in point, as the social enterprise is aiming to support men's mental health through the sale of customised sterling silver rings. The rings are engraved with sound waves that represent messages or words—such as ‘breathe’—and are designed to spark discussion, end stigmas and challenge traditional mindsets that ‘men need to be tough’
“It’s a silent crisis,” says Band Up’s Emily Patterson, who studied commerce at Victoria University. “There’s a real lack of discussion, education and awareness surrounding men’s mental health so we’d like to help change that.
Happy Earth is a team no less committed to effecting change. Their idea for a gaming app that shows players the direct effect of their actions on the environment won them a place at Bootcamp after they pitched it to the Climathon NZ judging panel recently.
“We initially thought that apathy about mitigating climate change was down to a lack of awareness,” says Emma Simons. “But when our research uncovered a lack of understanding about the impact that our daily actions have, we asked ourselves: ‘could we change what people do simply by showing them the impact of their actions’?”
They are giving it their best shot with a mobile app that presents players with daily choices to make—such as bringing your own re-usable cup to buy coffee—then rewarding them with a corresponding positive effect on the game’s earth. “Think Tamagotchi, except it’s the earth that we’re trying to keep alive!” she says.
Also working in the environmental space is Re:Centive, whose team members are exploring ways to reduce waste across a range of consumer items that are usually seen as disposable.
With an increasing need for environmentally and socially sustainable agriculture in New Zealand, team Wellington Microgreens is investigating the use of aeroponic technology to develop an urban farm right smack in the middle of Wellington city. Using vertically stacked, soil-less growing beds, the team plans to grow fresh microgreens (nutrient-dense seedlings of edible plants, often used to add colour and flavour to meals) for local chefs, reducing food miles as a result.
Outside of environmental concerns, team RYA is developing a peer-to-peer equipment hiring platform so that small to medium businesses can rent out their underutilised assets—helping them to maximise the return on their equipment investment, while providing a less expensive alternative for those businesses traditionally hiring from commercial equipment hire firms.
The team at Qisma Education is developing an app aimed at bringing learning directly to the learner. The app will not only enable students to view lectures or classes from remote locations via live video streaming, it will also allow them to interact in real time with the tutors or teachers—and even draw on a virtual whiteboard that can be seen by everyone in the class.
“It’s part of Victoria University’s vision to be respected for its contribution to the betterment of society,” says Emily, “and I think that this year’s student entrepreneurs are definitely well-aligned with that goal. But perhaps the most exciting thing of all is how quickly they are embracing the process of validation. The teams are already tweaking and growing their concepts with feedback from their customers, which will ensure that they are growing businesses with the potential to have real impact.”
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