What I Discovered from Mentoring Student-preneurs for a Day.

Millennials of today, also famously known as the “selfie” generation, have been described as privileged, entitled and spoiled in multiple articles around the globe.  Perhaps, it was because they were born with smartphones right next to them that their lifestyle tremendously evolved around technology and social media.

However, many would contest that these negative depiction of their generation are all pure misunderstandings and the key to truly getting to know the youth of today is to simply bridge that gap with constant communication.

So when our company invited us on an event to volunteer as mentors to students as they pitch their business modules, I did not hesitate to join and find out myself how the students of this generation has evolved.

This event holds group of high school students who have been developing their business plans as part of their curriculum.   Next year before they graduate, they will be given the chance to run their businesses in actual and be able to see for themselves if their year long plans are truly effective.  All resources will have to come from their own pockets which was the biggest challenge of all.

So before they start building their business, these students will meet a few volunteer mentors to give them some pointers to help them get through the struggles and eventually succeed.

Being one of the mentors, it was very new to me to be able to discuss business topics to a group of young high school students.  I had very little clue on what to expect, but the day ended really well and I have to say that I was quite impressed by most of their ideas.  So here are some key points I discovered from spending a day with the student-preneurs of this new generation:

Health awareness  is still a big thing for today’s generation.

Nowadays, it is a great advantage if a product is organic, environment friendly and nutritious.  Normally, working adults would be more aware on choosing these products as they are more exposed to the different illnesses as time goes on.  But hearing the need to develop healthier options for the market from the lips of young innocent high school students is very impressive.  Maybe because I was expecting that helping fight illnesses that most adults experience would be the last thing from their minds.

One of the products that was pitched was developing “malunggay” or moringa as a healthy skin care product to replace the more chemical filled products in the market.  This market niche maybe too competitive for them but these young students chose to work for a bigger cause in helping people improve their skin at a low cost with a healthier option.

They may be young but their deep awareness with the realistic problems of the society simply makes us look forward to a fruitful contribution that they can give in the years to come.

A product is more valuable if it cares for the environment.

80% of the products presented by the students are related to saving the environment.  One of the groups are selling hand made bags made from recycled plastics from drinks. They even spent a day combing the cemetery just to collect as much reusable garbage.

Another group has designed trendy tote bags for moms to help reduce the usage of plastic bags in groceries.  This proves that awareness of saving the earth bridges all generation.  It is with the belief that no matter how small the effort, it is indeed possible to make a difference.

Essentially, what helps in improving their branding is the story behind how their products will benefit more people through a bigger purpose.  In today’s very competitive market, what will set the product apart from others is its own branding and story.

Although the student-preneurs still have a long way to go to make their branding more effective and sharp, they have already made a small accomplishment with their contribution in helping the environment.

Confidence boosts the business

After all six groups of students have discussed their business plans, one team stood out.  This team highlighted that even if they have the fewest members and resources, it does not affect their huge faith that their product will succeed.  Almost 90% of the students were all worried and focused on their weakness and only a handful of them were excitedly focusing on their strengths.  This made a huge difference, as their confidence help them become more creative and risk takers.  Although afraid to fail, they prefer to focus on the chances that they might succeed.

The other teams were too busy avoiding failures that they missed out the better opportunities along the way.  In the real world, failure is inevitable but being too afraid to accept failure will make you paralyzed from doing anything at all, which makes you fail even more.

The confidence that some of these student-preneurs presented made us take a double look at the product and even saw it in a much better light.  The very first and most effective marketing strategy that these students made is showing their 100% passion and belief in the product.

Targeting the right market.

Half of the student groups had some doubts how their market will accept their product and its cost.  One group decided to sell jars designed very well made of clay for pencil storages and other supplies.  After sometime, they realized that they receive more feedback and engagements on their other product, the key chains made of clay. These are more affordable and easier to create which makes it a more feasible product to sell.  They now have to re-plan their strategies by changing their main product.

Most are afraid to waste the time and would hurriedly launch a product without carefully studying its target market.  The above situation shows the importance of not skipping the market research step which is an important element that would dictate the success of the product.  No matter how good the product is, if it does not meet the targeted market then it will surely fail.

Social Media is the key.

Nowadays, no business is small enough with the help of social media.  The social media platforms assures as that we can reach thousands or millions of  customers as long as we spend enough time and effort to build a stage for it.

All students rely on Facebook and Instagram to market their products easily.   However, they fail to realize the importance of consistency and creating engagements in posting articles about their products.  They still expect that people will come find their product eventually which is a huge misconception in the social media world.

It is their responsibility to make their product visible to the market by putting more effort in studying the advertising process.  Even as students, they need to go out there and make their products known by creating viral posts or seeking influencers to help market their products.  It is important to maximize the use of social media which is a proven platform used by millions of business owners where they acquire customers that made their businesses successful.

 

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