Changing it up

Published Mar 6, 2019

When the latest intake of Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp students began their journey in November 2018, they had some pretty clear ideas about the businesses they wanted to develop. Fast-forward 12 weeks to the final showcase event, where teams pitched their final business concepts, and it’s easy to see how some strategic guidance and a lot of hard work have changed things up for the teams. 

“The journey is never a straight line,” says Emily Sullivan, Bootcamp Programme Manager and Viclink’s Student Entrepreneurship Manager. “Pivoting—that is, the act of refining your market or idea as you work to validate it—is an expected part of the entrepreneurship process; Bootcamp gives them a safe and supported place to do that without any of the usual risks involved. 

John Phillips from team GrowfastNZ (formerly Wellington Microgreens) couldn’t agree more. “We were certain we knew what our business was going to look like, and who our customer base was going to be,” he says. “But our mentors got us to challenge that thinking, and we discovered a more viable market and business direction as a result.” The team originally planned to use aeroponic technology to develop an urban farm in central Wellington, but through the Bootcamp process found a unique solution to another gap in the market—providing tech solutions to other urban farmers and thereby supporting the entire emerging industry.  

Team Re:Centive—whose original idea was to reduce waste across a range of consumer items that are usually seen as disposable—rebranded as CuteFuture after deciding to focus on reducing the amount of baby clothing that currently ends up as waste. 

“According to Greenpeace, global clothing production has doubled since 2000—yet only around 15 per cent is recyclable—so we wanted to come up with a way that would encourage people to actually buy less,” says Carla Schwarting. She says their idea to deliver a different box of drycleaned, second-hand baby clothing to families each month (as a subscription service) is already attracting interest. “Families like the fact that it will save them money and have a positive effect on the environment.”

Qisma Tech realised after completing the validation process that the market for its services was actually primary rather than tertiary students—an experience shared by team Happy Earth Games. The Happy Earth gaming app shows players the direct effect of their actions on the environment and was originally aimed at millennials, but is now being targeted at New Zealand’s 300,000 primary school students instead. 

Team RYA changed both its name and market. Originally focused on developing a peer-to-peer equipment hiring platform for tradies to rent out their underutilised tools, the team rebranded as Toolspace, and turned its online platform towards connecting people in local communities instead. “Someone with a lot of tools in their garage at home can use our mobile app to easily lend or hire them out to neighbours who need them,” says Kimi Zerafat. 

In week ten, team Feast’s Michael Engelbrecht abandoned his idea completely, deciding to trust his gut and stop developing a business management tool for creative professionals. However, he says the experience and skills he acquired along the way have helped him to focus on what he wants to do next, namely a Masters in Development Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. 

“While outcomes are important, the lessons our Bootcamp students learn along the way are equally transformational,” says Emily. “There’s a quote that I think nicely sums up the Bootcamp ethos: ‘Success is a journey, not a destination, where the doing is often more important than the outcome’.” 

She says the Bootcamp delivery team aims to improve on the programme every year, and 2019 has been no exception. 

“For the first time we’ll be working with the Victoria Business School to offer more formalised post-Bootcamp support,” says Emily. “It’s partnerships like this, combined with the continued support of our amazing sponsors, that enable us to offer these life-changing entrepreneurial experiences for our students; we simply can’t thank everyone enough.” 

For more information about the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp, email Emily Sullivan or call her on 04 463 9604.

Photo caption: Bootcampers Michael Engelbrecht (Feast) and India Eiloart (Happy Earth Games).