The big winners in this year's Northland Young Enterprise Scheme are an oyster company set up by students from three schools in the Kaitaia area and an art framing business from Springbank School near Kerikeri.

Both teams will travel to Wellington in December, the young oyster farmers of Tasty Tio to receive a national award and art framers Hopu Ahurea to compete against the nation's top student businesses in the national finals.

Hopu Ahurea frames and markets 3D artworks by Northland artists and already has a number of outlets around the region.

Chief executive Wilson Baker, 18, who lives in Mangonui but goes to Springbank School, put his team's win down to the sheer hours they put in.

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"We tried to make it 100 per cent perfect. With so many amazing teams winning comes down to the tiniest margin."

He also credited their "fairy godmother", Springbank enterprise teacher Michelle Chapman, and the Northland artists whose work they sold.

Wilson was excited to win but also "a bit nervous", because the team would now have to take on the best of the best at the nationals.

It had been tough at times juggling the business with school work - especially when the annual review was due at same time as final exams - but he urged other Northland youth to take part.

"It's an amazing experience to immerse yourself in. There's a huge difference between business studies in the classroom and the real business world. Every mistake will cost you, big, but every success is that much more satisfying."

The overall Northland Young Enterprise winners for 2017 were, from left, Aimee Larkan, Wilson Baker and Kurtis Foster of Hopu Ahurea, a Springbank School art framing business. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF
The overall Northland Young Enterprise winners for 2017 were, from left, Aimee Larkan, Wilson Baker and Kurtis Foster of Hopu Ahurea, a Springbank School art framing business. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

Wilson will be joined in Wellington by teammates Aimee Larkan of Kerikeri and Kurtis Foster of Okaihau, both 18.

The other team heading to the capital - Tasty Tio, made up of students from Kaitaia College, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Rangi Aniwaniwa, and Kaitaia Abundant Life School - won one of 14 national excellence awards. Exactly what they have won will be announced when they get to Wellington.

The Year 12 students of Tasty Tio set up their own oyster farm in Parengarenga Harbour, near Cape Reinga, under an environmental education programme called Papa Taiao. Their shellfish will be ready for harvesting next year.

Marketing manager Maeana Panapa-Thurlby, 16, from Kaitaia Abundant Life School, said tio (oysters) were filter feeders which helped clean the water, making them an environmentally sustainable food source.

Financial officer Rawiri Manuera, 16, who lives at Maitai Bay but goes to Te Rangi Aniwaniwa near Awanui, said the team's aim was to do business in a Maori way.

"We try to mix in our Maoritanga with our business and do it in a way that respects the tikanga of local Maori, by involving them and helping then if we can."

Other members of Tasty Tio at the awards night were chief executive Pepita "Pepi" Griffiths, 17, of Kaitaia College, and Kahi Elliott, 16, from Te Rangi Aniwaniwa, both from Kaitaia.

The awards were presented at the Copthorne in Waitangi on October 20. Judging was based on a Dragon's Den presentation in which companies had five minutes to make a pitch to investors; the regional co-ordinator's overall mark; and the companies' annual reviews, marked by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

The Top Energy-sponsored Northland Young Enterprise Scheme is a high school programme in which students come up with a real-world product or service, set up a real company, and end the year with a real profit or loss.

Category awards
Excellence in business management: Hopu Ahurea (Springbank School).
Excellence in communication: Borrowed Style (Whangarei Girls' High).
Excellence in technology: Up Imagery (Kamo High).
Excellence in financial management: Big Brother Surveillance (Westmount School, Maungaturoto) and Hopu Ahurea (Springbank School).
Commitment: JNS Enviro (Kaitaia Abundant Life School).

Special, individual and major awards
Best Maori business: Parakore Tea (Kerikeri High).
YES Northland enterprise champion 2017: Natasha Williams of Taiao (Northland College).
Young managing director of the year: Alex Edwards of AE Ocean Fertilizer (Kerikeri High).
Innovation and growth potential: Hopu Ahurea (Springbank School).

YES Northland company of the year

1 Hopu Ahurea (Springbank School)
2 Big Brother Surveillance (Westmount School, Maungaturoto)
3 Alex Edwards of AE Ocean Fertilizer (Kerikeri High)

National excellence award

Tasty Tio (Kaitaia College, Te Rangi Aniwaniwa, Kaitaia Abundant Life School).