A group of Toi Ohomai and University of Waikato students devoted their holidays to try and turn their "start-up" ideas into business ventures.

Eight Tauranga students each received a $5000 summer scholarship to take part in a 10-week Project Ignite entrepreneurial programme.

Students worked with local businesswoman and entrepreneur Tina Jennen, start-up coach Josh Saunders and other business mentors to validate their ideas, develop revenue models and refine their business pitches.

The students unveiled their concepts at a showcase event at the Bongard centre in Tauranga last Friday.


Toi Ohomai student Sarah Baker studied Culinary Arts (Level 5) and signed up for the programme just two days before the entries closed last year, not thinking she would get in.

Her pitch to develop a range of vegan and gluten-free icecreams on a stick was a hit with the judges – as well as the audience on showcase night, who got to taste her product.

"Project Ignite was an awesome experience," Baker said. "A big part of the programme was talking to potential customers to validate our ideas, which helped a lot. I learnt how to reach out to people and to know when to bring someone else on board when I need help."

Her icecreams called Of The Earth were made from coconut milk and she hoped to get an investor on board so she could launch them as soon as possible, initially at local markets.

Jacob Van Silfhout studied a Bachelor of Science, specialising in computer science, at the University of Waikato in Tauranga.

He was developing a mobile app for tourists providing relevant information about key sites in Tauranga as well as top spots off the beaten track.

Combining augmented reality and virtual reality, visitors would use the app to take a guided tour with "interesting and engaging" commentary or, before they leave home, they would be able to virtually 'visit' the site.

"I didn't realise how much work it would take as an entrepreneur, but at the same time I didn't realise how many sectors I already had access to. Project Ignite was a fantastic learning experience," Van Silfhout said.

Once under way, he hoped to take his Mixed Realities NZ app throughout New Zealand and ultimately, feature tourist sites around the world.

Project Ignite programme manager Susanne Irwin, who is also the manager of Priority One's Ignition coworking space, said the calibre of applications for the third Project Ignite programme was very high.

"There are some amazing young people out there with incredible ideas and lots of tenacity," Irwin said.

"It is so encouraging to see the huge development of each student over the course of 10 weeks and I know that each of them has a very promising future ahead."

Created in 2015, Project Ignite is run as a joint programme by Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, the University of Waikato and Priority One.

Bay of Plenty businesspeople and start-up experts offer specialist advice to guide students in their entrepreneurial journey.

Five Toi Ohomai students and three University of Waikato students were selected from a group of applicants.

Students were able to work individually or in teams and had to 'sell' their ideas to a judging panel to get accepted into the programme.