31 January 2020

Getting an early start on a business career

Linley Boniface

Studying at a New Zealand secondary school is helping Chinese student James Shi gain the skills he’ll need for a career as an entrepreneur.

Chinese student James Shi is unleashing his entrepreneurial spirit while still at high school.

James, 18, is part of a team of business students who have started a company to sell t-shirts for charity.

The six students joined forces with iconic Kiwi clothing brand Swanndri to develop a limited-edition t-shirt to raise money to support mental wellness in New Zealand’s rural communities.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved,” says James.

“My father has said that this will give me great experience for the future, especially as I want to start my own business one day.”

James is in Year 13 at Lincoln High School, a co-educational state school just outside Christchurch.

When he arrived at the school from Shanghai three years ago, he had limited English language skills and knew little about New Zealand.

But James soon settled in, making lots of friends, improving his English and enjoying opportunities to play basketball and golf. “I love golf, and it’s cheap to play on good golf courses here.”

He also discovered a way of learning that prioritised critical thinking, hands-on learning and teamwork.

“I like being able to say what I think and to work collaboratively. When we work in groups at school everyone has different ideas, so we can share our ideas with others,” says James.

“The New Zealand education system is very practical. It’s different to the style of education we have in my country, so now I have the benefits of both education systems.”

James says studying in New Zealand also made him independent and self-reliant, more able to look after himself and stay focused on his goals.

James got involved in the t-shirt project in his business studies class. The class took part in a national enterprise programme that helps students develop real-world business skills to prepare them for the fast-changing future of work.

Students work in teams to set up a business, create their own product or service and take it to market. They develop business plans and marketing plans, and are mentored by business leaders.

James’s team came up with their t-shirt idea and sent a proposal to Swanndri. The company said it would be happy to help, and its general manager came to the school to speak to the team.

“It’s much easier to talk to people in business in New Zealand, even if you’re just a student,” says James.

As marketing director, James’s role was to promote the t-shirt through social media. In the photo above, James is discussing the project with some of his fellow team members.

James next step is to study for a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in management, at the University of Auckland.

And while the Swanndri project was James’ first business venture, it’s unlikely to be the last. His long-term aim is to work in the corporate world for four years after graduating, and then create his own start-up.

“Studying at school in New Zealand is setting me up for a good future,” he says.

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About the contributors
Linley Boniface

Linley Boniface is a contract writer for Education New Zealand. She is based in Wellington, her favourite city in New Zealand. A former journalist, Linley spent a year in Montreal, Canada, as a secondary school student.