June 22, 2018
It’s not every day that high school students are able to rub shoulders with international entrepreneurs and venture capitalists overseas and discuss their own inventions, but that’s what three of our Year 11 students are doing!

Aadya Mishra, Jacinta Yao and Becky Lim put their heads together a year ago to enter the TiE Young Entrepreneurs competition for high school students, which consists of a series of workshops where students come up with a business idea and present it. Based on the strength of their presentations, the winners are then able to travel to Washington DC to pitch their idea in the global finals - which is exactly what happened to these three girls!

The TiE organisation is a global network of entrepreneurs, including a Melbourne chapter. The TiE Youth Entrepreneurs program (TYE), whilst mostly based in the US, is growing in Melbourne and Australia.

The three girls created Meraki, a glass box that regulates its internal environment so it emulates the optimal growing conditions for plants.

“The idea is for people who live in high-density living who don’t have time or space, such as professionals, who want to grow their own vegetables but can’t,” says Becky. “The idea was to integrate itself into your household like a fishtank or a coffee table. It doesn’t need the sunlight, you don’t need to water it and it will grow the plants you need.”

The name is taken from the Greek word for “doing something with soul, love and creativity”.

One of the initial challenges was trying to think of what their project was going to be.
“We didn’t even have an idea when we first started the workshops,” Aadya says. “We were cycling through the ideas, bouncing them off our friends.”

“From the beginning we knew we wanted to do something that would help the environment because it’s something we all care about,” Jacinta adds.

“We wanted something that was going to make a difference,” Becky agrees.

The learning journey has been valuable in exposing the students to another side of business. The team had to create their business model, and include financials, projections and whether the product was viable. They also had to think about ways to retail: could they sell it directly? What would the impact be if they outsourced it? Would an outsourced factory be an ethical company to align with their own environmentally-conscious principles?

“Even thinking about developing the physical products,” Aadya adds, “if we use Perspex would that be actually polluting the environment?”

The competition in 2017 saw seven student teams in Melbourne, whereas in 2016 there were only three. The teams also were mentored by business consultant Graham Giannini from the TiE network, which gave them added guidance as to how to shape their business plans and presentations.

The participation was inspired from Aadya’s father being a part of TiE organisation, and who had also mentored one of the Melbourne teams the year before.

One of the biggest challenges for the three students was time. Apart from the Saturday workshops and balancing their Year 11 workloads, the submission date for their final presentation also happened to be during exam period. Nevertheless, they remained motivated throughout, and supported each other through the process.

“Doing it with friends was a benefit!” says Aadya.

The girls are “really excited” to be travelling to the US this week for the global finals and whilst over there, will be meeting with TiE entrepreneurs and venture capitalists as well as the Boston chapter of the network. Congratulations to these students on this wonderful achievement!

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