Kudos at so many levels
Five south Auckland students are still buzzing with excitement after scooping a national business award.
Manurewa High School's Caring & Co - Lar Su'a, Ryan King, Guang Liu Chu, Kayla Picknell and Kulgan Flynn - won the title of Company of the Year at the Young Enterprise Scheme national finals in Wellington last week.
As well as the top honours, the group netted the Te Puni Kokiri Award for Excellence in Maori Business.
Group leader Lar Su'a was earlier awarded the title of Young Managing Director of the Year.
The group receives cash prizes for itself and the school and the members each receive a $7000 scholarship to AUT to study business.
The company took the awards - beating 19 other finalist schools from around the country - for its development of a hand-picked olive oil, Unique Drizzle.
All the proceeds from the sale of the product went to funding the students at nearby Homai Primary School through the Life Education Programme, which teaches kids life skills and self-esteem.
Lar says that though the group always hoped to make it to nationals, they never really thought they would win the top prize.
"Manurewa High hasn't been in the [Young Enterprise] programme for about 10 or 20 years, so we were still unaware of the achievements that were out there for us," he says.
The year-long programme has required a huge commitment, with the biggest challenge being juggling school, sporting and personal obligations with the scheme.
"It probably took up a third of our day," Lar says.
"Some days we could get away with doing nothing but that just meant that the next day it'd take up even more. But in the end it was worth it."
Emma O'Riordan, the teacher in charge of the Young Enterprise team, says participating in the programme has been a steep learning curve.
"Because it was the first time for me doing it as well as the students, we all had a lot to learn about it," Ms O'Riordan says.
"We didn't really know what was fully expected, especially at the start of the year, or the amount of work that needed to be put in."
Lar says the biggest lesson he learnt throughout the year was "just to keep trying".
"A few times this year we've been knocked down a bit but you just get up."
The students plan to build on their company's success next year by tripling production of their olive oil and funding more local students through the Life Education Programme.
They also plan to develop their own honey, Unique Buzz, and are in talks with Honey New Zealand.
And they will be building on their business nous at university. With the exception of Kayla, who will be studying primary teaching, they plan to study towards a Bachelor of Commerce.
And Lar is hoping their success with the Young Enterprise Scheme will stand them in good stead.
"As the New Zealand scene goes, it's not what you know, it's who you know. I believe we know a lot of people now so that should help us in the near future," he says.
Ms O'Riordan says the legacy the group has left for the community is hugely positive.
"They're inspiring the younger students - not just from our school but also from Homai Primary," she says.
"I have Level 2 students who cannot wait to do Young Enterprise next year, who are already thinking about their ideas."
The Young Enterprise Scheme is run by the Young Enterprise Trust. Its vision is to grow a more prosperous New Zealand through enterprise by inspiring, educating and transforming students through enterprise experience.