The business of learning

1 March 2018


When this year’s Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp graduates pitched their business ideas to an enthusiastic audience at the BizDojo’s new premises last night, it was immediately obvious that the focus for this year’s intake was on learning.


“We are upfront with the students right from the start,” says Emily Sullivan, Bootcamp Programme Manager and Viclink’s Student Entrepreneurship Manager. “The Bootcamp is not just about building a business from your ‘big idea’ – it’s about the learning that happens during that process. Any entrepreneur will tell you that there are always going to be successes and failures along the way, but the goal is to learn from when things don’t go the way you planned.”


Emily says a number of teams put that into practice when they switched direction from their original concepts during their Bootcamp journey. “That’s why we put such a focus on the team—not just their ideas—when selecting candidates for Bootcamp. We’re always looking for students who can think and move fast, and be flexible enough to change direction if they’re not able to validate their initial idea.”


One of the teams to shift direction was HandsOn, whose first idea was to use interactive digital technology to help museums make exhibitions more accessible. However, as Bootcamp progressed, the team refocused and rebranded as the Fish Hook Science Studio—offering hands-on science workshops for adults.


“Science is not optional in life like it was in school,” explains Gabby, one of the two team members. “It underpins everything. Our workshops give adults the opportunity to experiment with science, without the commitment of formal education.”


Workshops include a DNA Cocktail Night and Apocalypse Training where “you learn everything from how to make your own soap and generate electricity, through to how to navigate using the stars”.


But the learning wasn’t restricted to just business skills. Another Bootcamper, Jodie Kerr, said she has grown up more since the launch of her online fashion business—Ciara—last week, than she has over the past few years. She says she’s learned the hard way about which marketing campaigns work, and which don’t—and, after losing her business partner (and digital expert) unexpectedly, she’s had to quickly get to grips with the digital side of her business.


Emily says that Bootcamp has evolved over the years and, while it still encourages teams to think for themselves, it also provides wrap-around support as required, including access to the BizDojo’s wellness programme targeted at helping the young entrepreneurs cope with stress, and a workshop with Humankind, who talked about the benefits of putting people first in business.


In addition, a joint initiative between Deloitte, Chapman Tripp and Accenture provided teams with six weeks of business mentoring.


“Anyone who has ever paid an accountant, lawyer or business development advisor will know how much value this added for our teams,” Emily says.


She says that she’s excited to see where this group will take their business dreams next. “Even after four years of running the Bootcamp programme, I am still surprised by the creativity, agility and perseverance demonstrated by Victoria’s students. I can’t wait to see what they achieve from here.”


Interested in taking part in the next Bootcamp, planned for November 2018, or in supporting the programme? Email emily.sullivan@vuw.ac.nz or visit the Bootcamp website.