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  -  Education   -  BizVenture Japan 2022: New Zealand and Japanese students connect through business

6 September 2022

The 2022 BizVenture Japan programme is an initiative hosted by the North Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence in partnership with Education New Zealand and facilitated by Young Enterprise Trust based in Wellington. This year Young Enterprise candidates from across New Zealand participated in the event along with students from education partners in Japan, including Japan Women’s University affiliated schools and Waseda University affiliated schools in Tokyo.

Held in Wellington and Tokyo, in a hybrid bicultural exchange event for school students, two winning teams, one from New Zealand and one from Japan, consisted of five high schoolers each. The New Zealand team presented two new Cookie Time snacks as a healthy alternative to energy drinks, while the winning Japanese team introduced frozen cookie dough with biodegradable packaging.

The business pitch challenge centred around iconic New Zealand brand Cookie Time, which operates in Harajuku, Japan. Six teams of New Zealand students and four Japanese teams devoted an entire weekend to experiencing a hack-a-thon feat. Each team selected one of two real-world business briefs: 1) developing a new product for Cookie Time to introduce to its already established Japanese food and beverage market, supported by a three-year marketing plan. Or 2) Identify a new market opportunity for Cookie Time to deliver its existing product range through a new sales channel, distribution model, or food and beverage sector.
While in 2021, the Covid-19 lockdowns meant BizVenture Japan was entirely digital, BizVenture Japan 2022 saw 30 Kiwi students meet in Wellington to experience cross-cultural education in person and online with the Japanese students gathered at the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo.

The winning New Zealand team comprised Tiana Manu-Griffin from Tokoroa High School, Fred Sugden from Taradale High School, Archie MacDonald from Cashmere High School, Jackson Wright from Whangaparaoa College and Keira Hills-Wilson from New Plymouth Girls’ High School – with the team devising two new Cookie Time snacks as a healthy alternative to energy drinks.

The New Zealand team designed a product targeted at middle-aged Japanese business people seeking energy boost and high school students fuelling their studies. The line of Enerugi Cookies and Sweet Enerugi Senbei (rice cakes) combines Japanese culture, energy and the iconic Kiwi Cookie Time brand to offer a compelling product for the two target markets.

Tiana Manu-Griffin, a Tokoroa local from the team, says the exposure to Japanese business and culture helped unleash the team’s creativity as they collaborated with like-minded individuals.

“The best part of the competition was the ability to work directly with Japanese students and business people, to understand the importance of culture and tradition in Japan. As a result, we developed a proposal that our target market loved, putting a twist on Japanese traditions and culture to reduce the use of energy drinks in Japan. It was amazing to see what we could accomplish using our different backgrounds and experiences as a sounding board for problem-solving.” shares Manu-Griffin.

“By offering a product with familiar and healthy ingredients like Matcha and creating a unique spin on traditional Senbei (rice cakes), we are confident our line will be enjoyed by Japanese consumers,” said Fred Sugden, a Napier local.

BizVenture Japan students were mentored through interactive workshops, where teams were encouraged to delve into the Japanese culture and business environment. The bilateral collaboration exposed students to business and culture in both countries, with Kiwis developing their cross-cultural skills and Japanese students building on their entrepreneurial talents and English language fluency.

“This year, we celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Japan. BizVenture Japan serves as a way to continually build on this relationship as travel for international students to New Zealand continues to open up. With education fostering people-to-people ties and supporting the development of close connections between our two countries, we cannot wait to take this collaboration to the next level in 2023.” Says Misa Kitaoka, Director of Education, Japan for Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao, about the collaboration between Japan and New Zealand, which marked a noteworthy milestone.

Charlie Gao, Director of the North Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence and Judge for BizVenture Japan, shared his thoughts inspired by the final student presentation pitches: “It is important that we listen to the ideas and take the leadership of our younger citizens when considering the solutions we need and the future we all want. The business plans, new ideas and commercial solutions the students have brought to the table should give us a renewed sense of optimism and hope.”

This year’s project was supported by the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo and the Embassy of Japan in Wellington. For this years business challenge, Cookie Time New Zealand and the Cookie Time store kindly offered to be the focal business for which students delivered real-world business solutions and marketing strategies.