The free trip to World Expo 2020 in Dubai may have been postponed thanks to Covid, but coronavirus has only slowed, not stalled Taupō's successful young entrepreneurs.
Tauhara College Year 13 students Brooke Moore, 17, and Olivia Moore, 17, were both selected to take part in The Global Kaitiakitanga Project, a joint initiative by the Youth Enterprise Scheme and NZ At Expo 2020, with Brooke the eventual winner.
She was to have been awarded a trip to World Expo 2020 in Dubai to showcase her sustainable packaging business Wrapt on the world stage but the event has been postponed. Instead, Brooke received $1000 to invest in Wrapt.
The 14-month programme provided mentoring and international collaboration for young New Zealand innovators and is about developing the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve global sustainability problems. That will fit with the theme of the New Zealand Pavilion at the World Expo which is about kaitiakitanga, or care for people and place.
The project selected 15 to 17-year-old students who had started companies embodying sustainability as part of the Young Enterprise Scheme running throughout New Zealand high schools.
Only five student companies were selected, and Brooke and Olivia had two of them. The other three were from Havelock North, Hastings and Auckland.
Wrapt has been pursuing alternatives to plastic wrap while Olivia's business Top That! has developed a range of meal toppers. Other companies' products included drought-tolerant seeds, an alternative to polystyrene bins used in the fishing industry and a tracking device for dementia patients.
During the programme they attended four workshops, visited the New Zealand Trade & Enterprise offices in Auckland and Wellington and had Zoom sessions. Last October they travelled to Thailand to learn how to incorporate local sustainable practices into their own companies. They also researched entry strategies into international markets.
As well learning about market readiness, export readiness and business strategies for success, the networking and collaboration opportunities were immense.
The Global Kaitiakitanga Project culminated with each team or individual pitching a market entry strategy into a chosen international market. Brooke's was the United Arab Emirates and Olivia's was Israel. Originally, the pitch was supposed to be done in Wellington but with New Zealand in Covid-19 level 2 at the time, it was instead done via Zoom, which Olivia says was tricky.
"You can't look at the audience ... we both really love pitching in person but on a Zoom call it wasn't the best."
Both young businesswomen say the project was a lot of work, with each workshop leading on to a related assignment, immensely valuable and well worth it.
Brooke plans to plough her $1000 winnings into research and development and while she's still making edible wrap, she has also created a new biopackaging material from calcium caseinate, a dairy waste product, which also supports a circular economy. She says this is still at a very early stage.
"It's been really, really intense. Last year I was experimenting and I didn't know a lot about plastic but this year I've really had to delve deep into how polymers work and stuff.
"But my main passion is food and food waste is one of my biggest concerns."
Next year Brooke will be doing an online tertiary course but also plans to continue with her various business ventures.
Olivia has bought a bigger commercial hydrator for producing her meal toppers and intends to move to larger-scale selling and markets. She's also been selling Top That! meal toppers at Market Central on Sundays and will be at the Kinloch Market.
Her other business is as a food photographer and recipe developer and next year after leaving school she plans to work with different brands to create recipes as well as pursuing her food photography business.
"I'm getting enough work for a steady income and next year I really want to push it and try and get more, and it would be really good to work towards magazine writing or something like that with food."
You can find Brooke and Olivia's businesses online at wrapt.mystorbie.com or topthat.thatgreenolive.com.