Young entrepreneurs tackle clothing waste and didymo for 48-hour challenge

Leadership Network members took a group young entrepreneurs under their wing to guide them to second place in this year's Entrepreneurs in Action event, held in Wellington recently. Entrepreneurs in Action is an annual event organised by the Young Enterprise Trust.
The Foundation team posing in front of Foundation signage

Entrepreneurs in Action (EIA) is an annual event where 78 students from around the country come together to compete in two back-to-back business challenges over 48 hours

With its vision of “Inspiring Students. Unleashing Leaders”, the Enterprise in Action (EIA) event brought together 80 promising young entrepreneurs at college level to compete in two business challenges, requiring them to work efficiently, think creatively, and act entrepreneurially.

Three of the young entrepreneurs sitting around a table looking at their laptops

The team doing some research in the Foundation's Wellington office

The budding entrepreneurs were randomly split into teams, with each team mentored by a host company or organisation – this was where the Leadership Network came in.

The Foundation’s team was mentored by network members:

  • Celeste Peh, innovation manager at me|today, a health and wellness brand that creates supplements and skincare.
  • Sebastian Newman-Dennis, ecommerce and partnerships expert.
  • Junior Lim, strategic planning manager at Foodstuffs North Island. 

They were supported by the Foundation's director leadership and entrepreneurship Adam McConnochie with support from EIA alumni Bryce Monteith. This year was the sixth year the Foundation has supported and mentored a team in the challenge.

The first of this year's challenges, set by the Ministry for the Environment, tasked the teams with moving Aotearoa towards a more sustainable and circular economy. The Foundation's team decided to tackle one of this country's major sources of waste - clothing.

Their idea was to have a ‘kahore he maumau’/‘nothing is wasted’ approach to clothing and involved a system to hire out used clothes with the ability to recycle the materials once the clothes were no longer fit for purpose.

The second challenge, set by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, tasked the teams with growing the Māori economy at regional level, while strengthening these communities and ensuring intergenerational success.

The team landed upon the idea of working in collaboration with Ngāi Tahu to eradicate didymo in South Island rivers and create an environmentally sustainable business model by turning the didymo into bioplastics. The team was awarded second place for this challenge.

“The teams were given some of the hardest issues New Zealand is currently facing, and it was amazing seeing the calibre of the students in action, says Celeste. "I loved seeing the ideas they came up with!" 

It was Sebastian’s second time mentoring a team for Enterprise in Action. He sees the event as, “An awesome opportunity to not only give back but for us to learn from the next generation. The way they think is just different, they were born into the digital era”.

It was important for the mentors to find the right balance of guidance, Junior days. "Our role was to provide guidance and challenge their thinking, not to provide answers."

He says events like EIA teaches young people how the business world actually works - "Something that even university traditionally has not prepared students for. It also brings in a new generation of entrepreneurs."

"It was extremely rewarding seeing the team develop rapidly over such a short time and taking out second place in the second challenge."


A man wearing a Asia New Zealand Foundation t-shirt talking to a group of students

Adam McConnochie: "By being involved, the Leadership Network and the Foundation get on the radar of some of New Zealand's most talented young thinkers."

The Leadership Network mentors a team each year as a way for the Foundation to connect with young up and coming entrepreneurs. 

"We have to consider the pathways that young entrepreneurs take and then see how we can support it," Adam says.

"The Young Enterprise Trust is really the first step; they spark an entrepreneurial interest in thousands of Kiwi teenagers every year. By being involved, the Leadership Network and the Foundation get on the radar of some of New Zealand's most talented young thinkers. 

"It's also a fantastic way for Leadership Network members to put their leadership skills to use, think creatively and pass on a little knowledge to the next generation."

A big shoutout to the students who comprised the Foundation team:

  • Ethan Richards-White, Rolleston College, Rolleston
  • Georgis Ivimey, Western Heights High School, Rotorua
  • Luca Brassett, Kerikeri High School, Kerikeri
  • Maddison Frazer, Mount Aspiring college, Wanaka
  • Tim Coulson, Saint Peters College, Palmerston North
  • Dalia Sakdanha, Mount Roskill Grammar, Auckland