Global test for young entrepreneur

MARK REVINGTON
Last updated 12:06 14/11/2011
jonathan wrait
BUSINESS TRIP: Jonathan Wrait is off to New York for the final of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.

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It's been a good year for Jonathan Wrait. The 21-year-old entrepreneur made the finals of the Unlimited Investment Challenge with business partner Jonathan Lawry, and is now off to New York for the final of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA).

Wrait had to beat some serious competition in the New Zealand final of the GSEA in Veronica Nobbs, another 21-year-old entrepreneur, who has developed a mobile application that allows people to book a last-minute hotel room on the run, aptly called Get a Room.

The third finalist was Chuck Slogrove, co-founder of Greenbox Marketing, which has launched a scheme to sell advertising on the lids of disposable coffee cups.

The goal of the GSEAs is to inspire and support entrepreneurship among students and recognise students who run profitable businesses while studying.

Wrait, who will compete against winners from 21 countries at the global final in New York from November 17 till 19, has one more semester to complete a bachelor's degree majoring in psychology, with a few management papers thrown in for good measure. Why psychology?

"I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur," says Wrait, "and I thought it was important to do a degree that interested me, otherwise I wouldn't turn up to class."

And there are similarities: psychology and business are essentially about understanding people.

Wrait's business is Virtuoso Tutoring, which tutors students in partnership with high schools, often using recently graduated students from the same school so they are familiar with the school and its culture.

Wrait began Virtuoso with another Jonathan - Jonathan Lawrie - also from the University of Auckland. So far they have rolled out their tutoring model across several high schools on Auckland's North Shore and since becoming finalists in the Unlimited Investment Challenge and pitching to some of New Zealand's top investors, they intend to roll out the model nationally.

Wrait says the experience in pitching gained throughout the Unlimited Investment Challenge proved invaluable. The GSEA model involves a 10-minute pitch to a panel of judges, much as the Investment Challenge finalists pitched to a panel of investors.

Tony Falkenstein, the entrepreneur behind Just Water and chief judge for the New Zealand GSEA final, says Virtuoso is a strong business model, notable for the idea of involving the schools themselves and its use of senior students or recently graduated students.

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And while it is so far restricted to the North Shore, getting those first few customers is all important, says Falkenstein.

"Getting the first customers is always the hard part, then the business has its own momentum. It could be a very successful franchise and Jonathan is extremely organised. The business is well thought out."

Falkenstein says he was amazed by the calibre of all three finalists and their irresistible optimism and business smarts. Even better, Veronica Nobbs is an alumna of New Zealand's first business high school, Onehunga High Business School, which was championed and developed by Falkenstein, who remains its chairman.

- Mark Revington is the editor of Unlimited magazine.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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