25 August 2022 at 12:00 pm

Entrepreneurial skills lead teams to win BizVenture Japan challenge

The second annual BizVenture Japan business challenge was held in Wellington and Tokyo, in a hybrid bicultural exchange event for school students at the end of July. The winning New Zealand team, consisting of five high schoolers from across New Zealand, presented two new Cookie Time snacks as a healthy alternative to energy drinks, while the winning Japanese team introduced frozen cookie dough with biodegradable packaging.

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New Zealand students who took part in the challenge

The business pitch challenge centred around iconic New Zealand brand Cookie Time, which has operations in Japan. Six teams of Kiwi students and four Japanese teams experienced a taste of entrepreneurship through ‘dragon’s den’ style business pitches, tackling one of two real-world business briefs.  

The first focussed on the development of a new product for Cookie Time to introduce to its already established Japanese food and beverage market, supported by a three-year marketing plan. 

The second focussed on the identification of a new market opportunity for Cookie Time to deliver its existing product range, either through a new sales channel, distribution model, or food and beverage sector.   

While Covid-19 lockdowns in 2021 meant BizVenture Japan’s pilot year was entirely virtual, BizVenture Japan 2022 saw 30 Kiwi students from across the country flown to Wellington to experience cross-cultural education in person and present their business solutions, while Japanese students gathered at the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo.

New Zealand’s Ambassador to Japan, Hamish Cooper, welcomed Japanese students to the New Zealand Embassy, Tokyo

The winning New Zealand team comprised Fred Sugden from Taradale High School, Tiana Manu-Griffin from Tokoroa High School, Archie MacDonald from Cashmere High School, Jackson Wright from Whangaparaoa College and Keira Hills-Wilson from New Plymouth Girls’ High School.

The winning New Zealand team

Targeted at middle-aged Japanese businesspeople looking for an energy boost, and high school students fuelling their study, the line of Enerugi Cookies and Sweet Enerugi Senbei (rice cakes) combines Japanese culture, energy and the iconic Kiwi Cookie Time brand to offer a compelling product for the two target markets.  

“Energy drinks are a growing market in Japan as people seek out more energy to work and help support their families,” said Fred Sugden, a Napier local. “At the same time, we learned that parents do not give their children energy drinks as many believe it will make their children go ‘crazy’.  

“By offering a product with familiar and healthy ingredients like Matcha and creating a unique spin on traditional Senbei (rice cakes), we are confident our line will be enjoyed by Japanese consumers.”  

Tiana Manu-Griffin, says the exposure to Japanese business and culture helped unleash the team’s creativity as they collaborated with like-minded individuals.

Students from the affiliated schools of Waseda University and Japan Women’s University took part in the challenge from the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo

“The best part of the competition was the ability to work directly with Japanese students and businesspeople, to understand the importance of culture and tradition in Japan. As a result, we developed a proposal that our target market loved, putting a twist on Japanese traditions and culture to reduce the use of energy drinks in Japan,” Manu-Griffin says.  

“It was amazing to see what we could accomplish using our different backgrounds and experiences as a sounding board for problem-solving.” 

BizVenture Japan students were mentored through a series of interactive workshops, where teams were encouraged to delve deep into the Japanese culture and business environment.  

The bilateral collaboration exposed students to business and culture in both countries, with Kiwis developing their cross-cultural skills and Japanese students building on their entrepreneurial talents and English language fluency.  

“I’m walking away from this experience with real-world skills and knowledge that I can take with me into university and the workplace. I now have a better understanding of how to approach business problems not only in New Zealand but around the world,” says Manu-Griffin. 

Misa Kitaoka, Director of Education, Japan, for Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao, says the collaboration with Japan marked a special milestone.   

“This year we celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Japan. BizVenture Japan serves as a way to continually build on this relationship, as travel for international students to New Zealand continues to open up. 

With education fostering people-to-people ties and supporting the development of close connections between our two countries, we cannot wait to take this collaboration to the next level in 2023.”  

The 2022 BizVenture Japan programme is an initiative co-hosted by Education New Zealand, North Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence, and Young Enterprise Trust. Education partners in Japan include Japan Women’s University affiliated schools and Waseda University affiliated schools.  

2022 BizVenture Japan is supported by the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo and Embassy of Japan in Wellington. Cookie Time New Zealand and the Cookie Time Harajuku store kindly offered to be the focal business for the latest business challenge.

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