Around the globe, entrepreneurship has become a glamorous and popular career choice. Yet with such high failure rates in the start-up community, launching any kind of start-up and building a sustainable business is not for the faint-hearted.

Across Australia, Singapore and Asia more broadly, local governments are pushing a strong innovation agenda and investing in start-up thinktanks. In a disrupted world, governments, industries and educational institutions are coming together to equip millennials with the skills to carve out a successful business.

As the gig economy gains momentum, traditional ways of working are being transformed. It’s therefore critical to equip young people with the essential skills they need to start and run their own businesses, and survive in today’s competitive business environment.

The launch of the YoungGems™ program for aspiring entrepreneurs

In 2017, my company Gemstar launched the YoungGems™ Entrepreneurs program for aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to take their ideas to market in Australia and Asia. The aim of the program is to unearth talent in Australia and Singapore to build exciting new businesses with global relevance.

Rather than start with the technology and innovation in mind, we designed the program to be marketing-led. Through real-world experience and practical master classes, Gemstar guides young entrepreneurs through the business journey, from marketing, brand-building and financial literacy to supporting the commercialisation of their business idea across the region.

As part of the YoungGems™ program held in October, teams from Murdoch University’s Perth and Singapore campuses actively participated in nine intensive masterclasses, which helped the students understand the ‘why’ of doing business and to solve real-world problems through strategic marketing.

I spoke to the winners of the competition, Adam Kinnest and Tristan Ward, Co-founders of Kiwa Tech Wear, about the key learnings they took away from the competition.

What was your initial interest in entering the competition?

Adam: After 12 years in business, I was keen to learn valuable strategies on branding and business modelling, to further support my growth as an entrepreneur.

Tristan: While studying physics at university, I felt I was missing out on an in-depth understanding of the way business works. The Gemstar workshop presented a great opportunity to understand how to leverage innovative thinking in business.

What value did the competition bring to your business planning for Kiwa Tech Wear?

Adam: The competition was critical in providing us with the best possible start for the business. It helped us understand what it takes to be innovative and how to leverage our passion to create a great brand and product.

Tristan: The competition taught us how to create a detailed entrepreneurial business plan. We put our knowledge to the test by actively creating a great business pitch, and we had the opportunity to work with brilliant people.

How will Kiwa Tech Wear make a positive impact on the community?

Adam: At Kiwa, our aim is to build safer communities for the ageing population and people who have mobility issues, so they can gain their independence and freedom back. We also aim to reduce government cost by bringing a product to market that will reduce falls and injuries.

What are three key learnings you took away from your YoungGems™ experience?

Tristan: “The business is you, and you are the business.” Success is about the ‘why’ of doing business. Entrepreneurs must be led by their purpose but adjust to what the market wants. At Kiwa, we want to help people (why), and we will do this by bringing new and innovative technology to market (how), creating a wellness device with a positive community impact (what).

What do you hope to achieve by bringing Kiwa Tech Wear to market in Asia?

Adam: Our aim is to support the fast-growing ageing population of Asia by enabling people to take control of their own health and wellbeing. We want to provide better injury prevention and detection, reducing the risk of long-term injuries and death from falls.

The glitz and glamour of entrepreneurship is attractive to many. However, without a robust marketing strategy and clear understanding of the ‘why’ of doing business, start-ups are unlikely to last in the long-term.

Education and training are key to fostering entrepreneurship across Australia and Asia, and equipping young people with the skills to succeed in business.