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Unleashing future Pacific business leaders

Unleashing future Pacific business leaders

  • 26 Jun 2023
YES Students on FLA and YES team

(Picture caption: Young Enterprise students enjoy the Future Leaders Academy, in Rarotonga earlier this year.) 

For the past four decades, the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) has been unleashing the future business leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

As the organisation celebrates its 40th anniversary and takes pride in supporting 5000 students (up until 2022), Pasifika Kaiarahi ako/Teaching Mentor Sian McMillan revels in another success - the ever-increasing number of Pacific students joining the initiative and revealing their inner entrepreneur. 

It has been a rewarding journey for Sian, who has been in the role which is supported by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), for five years now. 

“I see YES as being hugely beneficial for Pacific youth, they always have great ideas but sometimes lack confidence or resourcing to pursue that idea,” Sian says.

“The resources YES and its delivery partner Auckland Business Chamber supply online, along with events and selling opportunities and having a person to help connect, encourage and support them through the process really makes a real difference. 

“The ImpactLab, founded by former Prime Minister Bill English, recently prepared a Good Measure Report on YES and it shows for every dollar our funders spend supporting the scheme, it delivers $5.80 in benefits.   

“Momentum is growing every year for YES and there are a lot of teams on the ground in 2023…currently we are looking at an increase from last year’s 457 Pacific students from all over the country taking part, to 482 students this year.” 

To take part in YES, student groups or businesses must complete four challenges, Validation, The Pitch, Sales and Promotion and the fourth challenge of presenting an Annual Review.

There is over $20,000 in the national prize pool as well as regional awards, cash prizes and tertiary scholarships. 

Students have opportunities to attend national business competitions, events and go on partner programmes. 

Working closely with Pacific entrepreneurs, Sian has mentored her students through kickstart days, validating and pitching ideas, business development and seed funding distribution. 

“I also volunteered to chaperone for the Future Leaders Academy in the Cook Islands during the school holidays,” Sian explains. 

“Mannfred Sofara and To’e Lokeni attended this course for free as their prize for being the 2022 YES CEO of the year. 

“This was a great professional development opportunity for me – and the Academy aimed to help 54 students from New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands to develop their leadership skills, along with closing the gap in the Pacific by creating networks and knowledge around our beautiful cultures and maximising each individual’s potential.” 

Sian is now focusing on helping the teams prepare for a series of markets staged in Auckland throughout July and August, where YES teams can sell their products and services for free. 

Keep an eye out for Fetu Pasifika (MPP’s e-newsletter), which will be profiling Pacific YES businesses throughout 2023, while the YES Market website has information on teams’ products and services. 

Visit the MPP website to sign up to Fetu Pasifika.