Cultivating Entrepreneurship From An Early Age
Filipino student winners recount 3 essential insights learned from our annual youth entrepreneurship competition
For 15 years, the FedEx Express/JA International Trade Challenge (ITC) has been true to its mission of igniting the entrepreneurial spirit and developing the skills of secondary school students in the region. Two of this years winners are from the Philippines. We caught up with them to talk about their enriching journey.
Aljo Benedicto and Raine Nakpil were among the 6 students who bested over 600 other aspirants from across the Philippines in the local finals. A team of volunteers from FedEx Philippines mentored the students on global trade as well as the value of teamwork, risk-taking, and self-confidence.
The winning students advanced to the Asia Pacific Finals, streamed live on Facebook. 52 young entrepreneurs from 9 markets across the region participated in a virtual competition over 3 days. Their task? Create a market entry strategy plan for a mental wellbeing product in South Africa.
Benedicto and Hong Kong team-mate Chloe bagged the Grand Prize for their Kholwa Smartwatch concept, a biometrics sensor powered by a smart app to detect anxiety attacks. Meanwhile Nakpil, together with Thai student partner Theethad, won third place for their Luna Lamp concept, a smart lamp with sleep tracker linked to an app that diffuses calming scents.
Learning the ropes of entrepreneurship
Nakpil and Benedicto are both scholars under the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academic track of their schools. Despite global reports of the next generation opting to become entrepreneurs in favor of salaried career paths, entrepreneurship is of course unfamiliar territory for those so young. The FedEx Express/JA ITC provides avenues of learning – from workshops on real-life business scenarios to interfacing with FedEx mentors and partnering with fellow student innovators from different APAC markets.
"The competition definitely gave us a taste of what our future would be like if ever we pursue entrepreneurship," Benedicto shared.
"FedEx/JA ITC is probably the most realistic experience you'll have in terms of business at your age,” Nakpil added.
Flexing interpersonal relationship development skills
One of the greatest benefits to the students is the opportunity to hear from the judges - local and regional industry leaders who address students on entrepreneurship lessons and guidance. For Benedicto, speaker Nathalie Chan - CEO and Founder of innovative education system OWN Academy – resonated most. “Through her, I understood that sometimes students cannot see the point of education because it's mostly facts that are too abstract to be applied in real life. But we need to go through the process to reap benefits from all the theory we learn at school.”
Nakpil believed Kawal Preet, president of the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa (AMEA) region of FedEx Express, to be most moving and inspiring. “She said that in the competition we could either win or we could learn and I think that’s a very powerful statement that will stay with me.”
These words kept Benedicto and Nakpil going despite tough challenges during the intense finals - only 3 days to come up with a concept and present it together with a team-mate they met virtually for the first time during the competition.
Nakpil felt anxious during their first break-out session but everything turned out well after she got to know her partner. “The best part about ITC is that you're surrounded by like-minded teenagers who are just as excited about competing as you are. Bonding is easy because we all have a common goal,” she commented.
Benedicto’s group, on the other hand, initially struggled with finalizing their idea. Yet through consistent communication and in-depth research, they were able to arrive at a winning product concept. "Everything ran smoothly when we started listening to each other. We became more assertive, and we had great working dynamics since we also divided the task based on our strengths," he added.
Discovering your idea’s potential
Benedicto and Nakpil both realized they are capable of doing extraordinary things at a young age as long as they work hard and believe in themselves. “The competition made us do things you don’t learn in school. And the way mentors interact with us, they did not treat us like kids,” Nakpil added.
“Months ago, I didn't know how to make a business plan. But when I opened myself to new experiences I discovered that I'm competent and I can further stretch myself to do new things,” Benedicto concluded.
FedEx-/JA ITC is a promising platform where students can achieve their full potential and prepare themselves to become tomorrow’s leaders. The competition hopes to attract more students across the region as FedEx Express and Junior Achievement Asia Pacific kickstart the 2021-2022 edition with a series of virtual workshops this spring.
Thinking about treading an entrepreneurial path but unsure where to begin? Get practical tips and inspiring insights here.
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