21 August 2018

Learning the skills to become an entrepreneur

Linley Boniface

Doris Lien’s New Zealand education helped her discover a talent for coming up with great ideas for start-up businesses.

In 2016, her second year of studying at the University of Canterbury, Doris joined a three-day bootcamp run by the university’s Centre for Entrepreneurship.

“I’ve always found it hard to arrange time to meet up with friends for coffee. That gave me a start-up idea for a scheduling app,” she says.

“People could log in to the app using their university email address to see their friends’ schedules and find a suitable time to meet up.

“My idea won the ‘most commercially viable’ award. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and put my idea forward.”

Doris found the bootcamp so inspiring that she joined the centre’s 10-week, full-time Summer Startup programme.

“The programme had a really interesting mix of individual activities, team activities and talks from people who had set up their own businesses,” says Doris.

“There were lots of different people on the programme, from undergraduates to master’s and PhD students.

“It was really helpful to be able to meet business owners and to mix and mingle with other students who wanted to start their own businesses.”

Earlier this year, Doris took part in another bootcamp: the two-day See Me Live competition.

See Me Live matches students up with New Zealand businesses to create marketing strategies for the China market.

Finalists had their pitches livestreamed to thousands of Chinese students at the University of Canterbury’s partner university in Hangzhou, who voted for their favourite ideas through WeChat. Doris and her team came second in the competition.

See Me Live was run by Global China Connection, a student club that inspires students to pursue China-related opportunities.

Doris is now helping to run the $85k Startup Challenge, a professional development and mentoring programme for students who want to turn their great ideas into businesses – and win their share of a prize pool worth NZ$85,000.

The challenge is organised by Entré, a student-led, not-for-profit company at the University of Canterbury. It runs competitions and offers networking opportunities for students from tertiary institutions in the Canterbury region.

Doris says she has enjoyed having to come up with her own business ideas.  “Sometimes I’ve felt nervous about sharing my ideas, but it gets easier the more you do it. It has given me more confidence.”

Working in teams on challenges has also been helpful.

“I’m used to working in teams because most of my higher-level classes have involved group projects,” she says.

She says she’s had good support from her lecturers, many of whom have experience of starting their own businesses.

Doris is studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese and Japanese, and a Bachelor of Commerce in international business and marketing.

She’s confident that her academic education, real-world learning and networking experience will be a good foundation for success in her career after she graduates next year.

“I’m planning to either start my own business or work in Asia in international trade,” says Doris.

“I feel my education has prepared me to work towards my goal of building connections between New Zealand and China.”

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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.