When teenagers go good: Five wish-I'd-thought-of-that ideas from Kiwi 16-year-olds

Customised signatures, upcycled road signs, solar lanterns – and more. Five cool design ideas from teenage entrepreneurial winners at the Young Enterprise Scheme awards.

This year’s Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme National Awards have thrown up a raft of wish-I’d-thought-of-that entrepreneurial ideas created by Year 11 students (yes, they are 15-16 years old).

YES was set up in 1981 to provide practical business skills for senior secondary school students.  The students work as a team to create a real product or service and then set up and run their own business for a year. Along the way they have to do customer research, put together and implement a business plan, attend a trade fair, pitch to judges, and try to make (real) profits. 

Here are some design ideas we particularly liked:

Customised signatures: The award winners were a team from Pakuranga College, who created A Brilliant Signature, a business which designs cool-looking signatures for customers (presumably many of them young adults) nervous about heading into the workforce with their teenage scribble. The company creates three different signature options for customers to choose from, a slow motion video of how to write each one, and tracing paper so they can perfect their chosen personal moniker.

Facebook marketing for A Brilliant Signature

The team sold to clients in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. A Brilliant Signature won the YES Company of the Year, meaning the four winners share $3000, and each receive a scholarship to study business at Massey University.

Solar lanterns:Bearwood, a team from Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth, designed and produced hand-crafted solar powered lanterns. Made from native New Zealand totara and upcycled materials, the lanterns run on a single solar panel with a bulb suspended within a recycled jar.

Bearwood was the Taranaki regional winner.

Upcycled road signs:RAD Road Signs, a team from Waiuku College, made clocks by upcycling decommissioned road signs and selling them on Trade Me. The students formed a partnership with Fulton Hogan, Transfield and Auckland City council to get hold of old signs and produced the one-off clocks. They apparently proved a sell-out success.

RAD Road Signs won the HSBC Award for Excellence in Sales and Marketing.

Fluoro dye for water rescues: Liquid Life, from Hutt Valley High School, developed a canister full of fluoro dye, which can be clipped onto a life jacket. If the wearer falls overboard, the canister releases dye into the water to highlight their position for rescuers.  The canister is designed to disperse the fluoro dye slowly over eight hours, and for the dye to be clearly visible night and day.

Liquid Life won the Award for Excellence in Innovation, and the chance to work with Callaghan Innovation and Creative HQ to further develop their prototype.

Literacy/numeracy software: George, from St Thomas of Canterbury College developed a software system, 'George OS' which uses games to help children with literacy and numeracy, but can be run on semi-obsolete computer systems.  The idea was to create a social enterprise which collected and gifted computers running George OS to children in the Pacific, giving them access to technology they might not otherwise get.

George won the MOVAC Award for High Growth Potential and NZ Aid Programme Award.