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Howard’s End: Calling Young Westland Entrepreneurs

A business plan competition with $43,000 in prize-money aimed at 16-24 year-olds, is about to get underway in Westland District on the West Coast. Maree Howard writes.

If you're aged between 16 and 24, you live in Westland District and you've got a great idea for a new product or service and you're not exactly sure how to get started, then the 'Go Westland' business plan competition, to be launched in Hokitika on 5 August, is for you.

The thrust of the competition, to be run in three phases, seeks to stimulate and support young entrepreneurship and to help create an atmosphere in which new and innovative business or service ideas will thrive in a collaborative, yet competitive environment.

Westland District hopes to create a critical mass of ideas and young entrepreneurial spirit and is using the logo, "Because we want your ideas to work."

Phase 1 of the competition is about preparing the idea with competitors having to describe their new product or service in relation to the need, customer value, market size, innovation, competition, advantage and feasibility. There are up to 20 awards of $1,000 up for grabs for the individuals or team winners in this phase.

Phase 2 is the Business Case where competitors undertake a more in-depth analysis of Phase 1. There are up to 10 awards of $1,500 for this phase.

Phase 3 is titled the Business Plan. This brings the first two phases into a final business plan which takes the idea from concept to company. The overall winner of the competition will receive an award of $5,000 with the runner-up $3,000.

Throughout each phase the young entrepreneurs will not be walking alone having the support of expert mentors gathered from the Westland community including marketing, banking, accounting, legal, and planning and regulatory.

Both the Tindall Foundation Employment Catalyst and the Westland District Council stumped-up with $25,000 each to fund the competition.

Westland Mayor, John Drylie said, " We don't want to just give our young people a job, we want to give them a career."

"While we 'old wrinklies' always looked for, and expected, security in employment, in the last ten years we've seen a significant attitude shift in the 16-24 age bracket where they no longer expect security of employment but security of employability."

" Some young Kiwi's may want to go to university and then work for a large corporation. But what happens, at say aged 30, when they find the company downsizes and they don't have a job - what then?, Mr Drylie said.

"Redundancy or unemployment can often push you into turning an idea you've had in your head into action. A good path, then, is surely to prepare and support our young people with the basic skills to be able to identify and anticipate opportunities so they can develop their economic and social ideas before they are pushed," he said.

"It might be that a young person has a dream to build and operate an eco-adventure camp in Westland catering for all-comers but with an emphasis of targeting at risk or disabled youth.

It might be as simple as learning Mandarin and then teaching it to others so that we can cater for expanding Chinese/NZ business growth or heading a new company of language interpreters. Or it might be as simple as designing, manufacturing and selling unique jewellery made from Westland's beautiful gemstones," he said.

Mr Drylie said " Did you know that F.W. Woolworth, the founder of the chain-store giant Woolworth's, was once hired as a cleaner for 50 cents a day because a store owner thought Woolworth didn't have enough skills to serve customers?"

"Or that Albert Einstein's teachers classified him as a dunce and even his parents thought him backward. And then there was Marconi who was chastised by his father for wasting time when he first began experimenting with radio. And what about George Gershwin who was laughed out of the theatre by both the audience and his fellow actors when he first played the piano."

"And when Thomas Edison was in school he was always at the bottom of his class because he couldn't remember his reading, writing and arithmetic. In fact, his teacher called him stupid and doctor's predicted he'd have "brain trouble."

And what about Jim Wattie who started Wattie's in Hastings with nothing but an idea and a dream. And Stephen Tindall, who started with nothing but a dream.

Mr Drylie said, "The point is about having that dream, knowing that there is support to build on the dream and for all of us to realise that with a little help from their friends, our young people can do anything."

Mr Drylie said, " Westlanders want all young Kiwi's to be successful and we look forward with excitement to the many success stories which will be generated from our young people in the 'Go Westland' Business Plan Competition.

"Aim for the stars and you might hit the ceiling, but aim for the ceiling, and your feet won't leave the floor." - And ain't that the truth?


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