Ready to face the dragons

JULIA HOLLINGSWORTH
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013
Mahoney Turnbull
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
GERMANY BOUND: Mahoney Turnbull, 22, is taking part in the world business convention challenge, in Cologne, to prove she’s not just another young ‘‘slacktivist’’.

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Flying across the world to pitch a business start-up idea in front of the former chief executive of furniture company Ikea sounds like the makings of a Donald Trump-style television show, but for one 22-year-old, it is about to become a reality.

Terrace Chambers law intern Mahoney Turnbull has been chosen from thousands of applicants worldwide as the only Australasian among 30 students to take part in the world business convention challenge at the University of Cologne, Germany.

The convention, the largest student-run business convention in the world, kicks off in March with a start-up competition in which teams of four compete to have their concept pursued.

Ms Turnbull's team-mates come from Italy, Chile and Ghana.

"It's a kind of a Dragon's Den-ish challenge," Ms Turnbull says.

Two days of talks on the theme of "alternative business models" will follow the challenge, with speakers including Jurgen Fitschen, co-chairman of Deutsche Bank, and Anders Dahlvig, former chief executive of Ikea.

The talks will look into ways to create sustainable businesses with a social purpose.

Ms Turnbull - a law, politics, Chinese and Spanish student at Otago University - says she was inspired to apply so she could take action on the world's sustainability problems, rather than being yet another young "slacktivist".

She applied by submitting a video online, winning a place from 2500 applications worldwide.

It will be Ms Turnbull's first time in Germany, and she is excited to visit the country and meet the other participants, among whom she hopes to make some valuable contacts.

Although most students will have a business background, Ms Turnbull is not concerned.

"I'm more nervous about pitching it in front of all these high-level corporate executives."

Long term, Ms Turnbull hopes to become an "ecopreneur" - combining the creativity of entrepreneurship with sustainable business values - and she thinks the conference might provide some insight.

"There's all these myths that it [sustainable business models] shouldn't be as financially viable, but it's completely the opposite."

After the conference, Ms Turnbull will fly to Shanghai for a six-month exchange at Fudan University.

She will be interning at China's largest law firm, King & Wood Mallesons, where she hopes to put her newfound knowledge of sustainable business into practice.

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