As BCII students, we are always on the hunt for likeminded young adults. We can smell innovation and entrepreneurship on the air like a sweet perfume. We are attracted to creativity like moths to a bulb. So, when we heard about Generation Entrepreneur, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out more.
Generation Entrepreneur is known by its loyal followers as Gen E (don’t ask its members how many times they’ve been asked “Who’s Jenny?” It’s a sensitive topic.) It was founded in 2014 when a group of high school students came together to solve a problem.
We sat down with Jack Leung, the current Managing Director of Gen E to see what this rapidly expanding start-up is all about.
Q: Jack, I was wondering if you could explain to us what Gen E actually is?
Jack: So, Generation Entrepreneur is a social enterprise. We focus on empowering high school students through entrepreneurship. What we’ve found is something that’s missing in the education system is the concept of entrepreneurial thinking. What we’re really trying to do is provide experiential learning for high school students where they’re hands-on creating something that is a palpable business. It really isn’t about teaching them commerce skills, it’s more the concept of taking an idea and making it something real.
Q: So, what is your role within Gen E?
Jack: As Managing Director, I manage our small team of 25. As a social enterprise, our team is built up of all high school or university volunteers. Our youngest member is 15. I’m one of the oldest! What my role involves is managing those guys and trying to make sure that we execute on all the different parts of our organisation. So, if you think about a standard business it’s the same stuff – operations, marketing, human resources and partnerships. This also involves strategy such as how we can maximise impact and reach as many kids as possible. We know our program works, so how can we make sure that as many people can go through it as possible.
Q: Awesome! So, you’ve mentioned that your target audience is high school students. Is there any reason why you chose this age group in particular?
Jack: Well, Generation Entrepreneur was started by high school students! What happened was that we identified an issue in something that we were very close to; high school education. We thought; ‘Ok. We know that there’s a problem here so how can we solve it.’ It is so important to empower students while they’re young!
Q: Agreed! You’ve spoken about experiential learning as your teaching technique; why do you think that works?
Jack: Well, in high schools and universities we see a standard classroom with a teacher leading a lecture. The idea is; ‘This is what you need to know, now go home and memorise it’. But, what really works for young people is the actual application of what they’re learning. Gen E really fills this gap and provides opportunities for these kids. What we’ve seen is that these students are inspired; they realise; ‘Ok, this isn’t a drag, this actually applies to something tangible’. That supplements the education system as well.
Q: Can you talk me through what Initiate 48 is?
Jack: Yeah! So, what happens at Initiate 48 is over a weekend, starting on Friday night, students form teams, create a business, work on their business and then pitch it. On Friday night, we provide an introduction to the program, students pitch their initial ideas, they form teams and they get cracking straight away. We provide a small lean business model workshop; that is, an extremely simplified version of what, to its core, is a business. This initial workshop helps them figure out the important things; what they actually want to focus on over the weekend.
On Saturday, we run one more workshop on customer development. This allows them to think about what their product does to help their customer. Then, we bring in industry mentors; people who have launched their own businesses, invested in companies and have been on the whole spectrum of creating a business. We also provide a ‘how to pitch’ workshop on the Saturday to prepare them for the day after. And all the time in between, there are team mentors and time to work.
On Sunday, there is the final presentation where the students pitch to judges and of course, they win prizes! Which is their favourite part, most of the time.
Q: How many participants do you usually get in Initiate 48?
Jack: About 90 to 100.
Q: What kind of results have you seen from these sorts of programs? Are the kids inspired to go forward with their ideas?
Jack: Yeah, actually I have a story about some kids from Turramurra High School. At first, we didn’t know what to expect from high school kids; we didn’t know what type of traction we would get. Basically, we did a promotional assembly at Turramurra High School and after the presentation, there were around 20 to 25 Year Sevens and Year Eights who came up to me and said; ‘We all have a bunch of different ideas that we want to pursue’. That really surprised me, and I think our team as well! The essence of entrepreneurship actually resides with younger kids who haven’t gone through the high school program and still have an inherent creativity and natural challenge for authority.
Q: So, where do you see Gen E in the future?
Jack: This might be beyond my time, but what we constantly see is a need within teachers who need support in teaching entrepreneurship, and students who want a program that allows them to pursue an idea that they are passionate about.
A good example is that a teacher from Brisbane came down to our event in July and said; Wow, we really need this event in our school’. There is a definite demand for this and a gap in the education system where it’s so valuable for kids to go through this program.
Maybe they don’t launch a business but that sense of passion and belief is what we’re trying to instil. If we are able to empower these kids to believe in themselves, what does that mean socially for these kids when they grow up? They’re going to be the ones that create all the cool stuff that we won’t even see! It’s our responsibility to do it now.
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