Launching and running a business that won the Junior Achievement Company of the Year award is no easy feat and a huge achievement in itself, but these students at Nexus International School (Singapore) managed to do it! They launched a student-led business that is not only profitable but also sustainable and socially-conscious.
We had the pleasure of chatting to Carlota Pinker Rego, Jackson Wang, Dhruv Sharma and Tina Jiang, an all-student team about how they launched their business, Revival. This inspiring Nexus squad share with us how they went on to take first place in the Junior Achievement ‘Company of the Year’ (COY) competition, firstly in the Singapore nationals, and then went on to come out top in the Asia Pacific regional competition.
Congratulations on winning both the local and regional Company of Year (COY) programme. Tell us more about your student-led business project?
Carlota: The COY programme is run by an global non-profit youth organisation called Junior Achievement that serves the community with its business and economic educational programmes. First, we had to start with the Singapore nationals programme, and after coming first place in the competition, we managed to enter the regional Asia Pacific programme, which we also won. The final stage will be the global programme, which is being rolled out for the first time next year.
How did you get started in the COY Singapore programme?
Carlota: Mr Jim Bevan, our Business and Economics teacher from, hosts the programme at our school. We were first given a brief, which included guidance documents, and were also supported by mentors who are real-life businessmen in Singapore to help authenticate our entire experience and steer us throughout the programme. We then had weekly meetings based on the guidelines during the 12-week programme.
So, each week you had different goals and objectives to discuss?
Carlota: Yes, for example, Week 1 was more of an introduction; by Week 2 we had to select which team member would be doing each role, like finance, marketing and so forth.
Tell us about your brand Revival and your actual product?
Tina: Our product was called Versa. It’s basically a bag that can be worn three ways; a sling bag, a shoulder bag and also as a backpack.
We used canvas advertisement banners for the material, which are usually discarded after use. We decided to reuse our school’s own unwanted posters and repurpose them into our bags. This gave us a financial advantage as our materials were basically free, since our school wasn’t using these posters anymore.
How did you come up with the idea to repurpose posters into bags for your student-led business?
Tina: We came up with the idea during the first two weeks of the programme during our brainstorming sessions. We thought it would be good to repurpose these advertisement posters, since they can’t be recycled due to their plastic content.
Who made the Versa bags?
Carlota: We partnered with a charity called Singapore Anglican Care Services (SACS), which runs a mother-and-child project. One of their initiatives is to help women struggling to get back into the labour force. These women helped to sew our bags from their home; we paid them for their labour, and also gave 20 percent of our profits to SACS.
Where did you find your customers?
Jackson: We mainly sold to people connected to our school. Most were parents and families of students from Nexus International School.
What were your individual team roles for your student-led business?
Carlota: Halfway through the programme, our president emigrated to Australia, so I was elected as the new president!
Jackson: I’m the Head of the Finance. So I was in charge of doing the calculations for materials, as well as working out how to operate in a more cost-effective manner. I would negotiate with suppliers and arrange longer trade payables and discounts. It was challenging, but I tried to apply all the knowledge from our class lessons to our real-life business.
Tina: First, I was part of the production team, so I would visit local markets and research on various materials and their quality. Then I moved to marketing, focusing on finding ways to advertise our products, and selling them at events like the our school’s Christmas Fair.
Dhruv: And I was the Head of HR. I was responsible for the administrative side of things, as well as stock-taking, tracking sold items and passing the correct stock information to Jackson.
You won both the Singapore nationals and the regional competition; how many teams were you competing against?
Carlota: For the national programme, there were 11 teams from different schools around Singapore. For the Asia Pacific competition, we were up against about 17 teams, including 2 teams from Singapore.
How did you feel when you won the Company of the Year Singapore Nationals?
Carlota: It was pretty intense. The judges took about twice as long as normal to deliberate. We were awarded a prize for best company programme report, as well as overall winner of the entire Nationals competition.
Jackson: I had a feeling that we were going to win, because I deeply believed in our collaborative team effort.
Tina: It was really nerve-wrecking because you always have uncertainty until you hear your group’s name called. Up to the final moment, we were just sitting there holding hands together.
What was it like to then go on and win the Asia Pacific programme too?
Carlota: In a way it was even more intense, because we were up against other champions from their respective countries so we knew these teams were talented. The regionals were supposed to be held in Guam, but due to COVID-19 it was conducted online, which made the experience different. We were just so happy when they announced that we won.
Carlota: The next step is to enter the global competition. We’re also working on setting up a legal Singapore registered company, as we had to liquidate the original business as part of the requirements of the organiser, Junior Achievement.
What was the biggest takeaway for each of you?
Tina: You often hear that businesses have a trade-off between being environmentally friendly and being profitable. But from my experience we can actually achieve both and I love that. We’ve also proven that it’s possible to help our community at the same time.
Dhruv: Apart from the sustainability aspect, I’ve loved being part of a dedicated team. I think my favourite part was witnessing our team spirit.
Jackson: I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to apply all the knowledge I learned from my Nexus school lessons to real life. I also learned a lot about the sustainability and collaboration aspects of the project.
Carlota: I would agree with the others, and add that we had a really amazing team. Personally for me, I didn’t think I wanted to be in a student-led business when I started the programme. However, I changed my perspective because Revival became this thing we really cared about.
I’d love to thank the whole team who were involved in this project at various stages. Their contribution was really valuable and everyone’s work contributed to the overall success of Revival.
All students forming the student-led business ‘Revival’ are from Nexus International School (Singapore)
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