At Nexus International School Singapore, entrepreneurs are made, not born. From overcoming crushing setbacks to thriving in Shark Tank-like situations, nobody does it better than Nexus students and graduates.
These virtues are why it’s the proud winner of the 2020 Junior Achievement Company of the Year award, in both Singapore and Asia. Masterminding, launching, and running a business is no small feat, but the team named “Revival” proved that Nexus learners can not only do this, but also beat 11 schools in Singapore and 16 schools in the Asia Pacific at the regional round. It’s an accolade that’s set to stand out on CVs and intrigue future Fortune 500 recruiters.
This illustrious achievement belongs to the leaders of the group Carlota Pinker Rego, Jackson Wang, Dhruv Sharma and Tina Jiang. They were guided by their business and economics teacher, Jim Bevan.
The team had only 12 weeks to bring a vision from idea to product. Carlota assumed the position of president; Jackson was head of finance; Tina took on marketing; and Dhruv was head of HR. For capital, they sold 75 shares to get S$375.
The next step is to research the market and to come up with a product or service. “This is obviously one of the hardest things, and has nearly been the downfall of many teams,” Jim says.
The idea came quickly: upcycling single-use banners that usually end up in landfills into a bag that can be worn three ways. So did the name “Versa.” “We used canvas advertisement banners for the material, which are usually discarded after use,” explains Tina. “We decided to reuse our school’s own unwanted posters and repurpose them into our bags. This gave us a financial advantage as our materials were basically free, since our school wasn’t using these posters anymore.”
Five weeks in, they hit a snag. Their then president moved to Australia. The quality of the bags Carlota made by hand wasn’t cutting it either. They needed to outsource the manufacturing of the bag — fast. “Doing this in China seemed the most commercially viable way, however, the team did not favour this. Were they really going to ship banners to China and they ship back the finished product! How could this be considered sustainable or ethical, if it conflicted with their vision and mission?” explains Jim. “They realised they needed to find a producer in Singapore and that was going to be an expensive challenge and a massive learning curve!”
Like true entrepreneurs, they found their ways round these difficulties and persevered. Despite two major upheavals, none gave up. Team Revival partnered with Singapore Anglican Care Services (SACS), a charity that helps underprivileged women get back into the labour force. They were paid for sewing the bags from home and received 20% of the profits.
“You often hear that businesses have a trade-off between being environmentally friendly and being profitable,” Tina says. “But we’ve proven that it’s possible to help our community at the same time.”
Throughout the process, Team Revival received guidance from mentors provided by Junior Achievement Singapore. Experts with years of industry experience, Joe Lombardo and Mike Matthews, co-coached with Jim, helping students apply business management tools when making informed decisions.
“The mentors make the experience authentic. They don’t give them the answers and they let them learn through their mistakes. Revival made so many, but they learned from each one of them,” Jim shares.
Carlota, Jackson, Dhruv and Tina’s win may have already cemented their professional expertise; but Team Revival’s journey is far from over. Rego confirms this, stating: “The next step is to enter the global competition. We’re also working on setting up a legal Singapore registered company, as we had to liquidate the original business as part of the requirements of the organiser, Junior Achievement.”
“The Nexus Way”
At Nexus, pupils learn to thrive early. At its Nursery and Kindergarten, little learners make life-changing discoveries. They then progress to Primary School, where they follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) curriculum, which covers language, mathematics, social studies, science and technology, arts, and personal, social and physical education.
Secondary School learners take on the International General Certificates in Secondary Education (IGCSE) before moving on to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). At the same time, they receive personalised attention through small class sizes and develop their passions with learner-led activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the Learner Leadership Programme.
At whichever point a student arrives in Singapore to jump in, they reap the rewards of “The Nexus Way,” which fosters a spirit of ownership, responsibility and risk-taking — all of which will serve them well in an ever-changing world.
Echoing Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman, who advocates for students graduating high school “innovation ready,” Nexus believes learning entrepreneurship benefits students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. It inspires them to create their own jobs instead of taking the conventional route. Encouragement to participate and excel in business-focused challenges like the Junior Achievement Company of the Year Award proves this.
“I still can’t believe how they managed it. I probably don’t do much, this is not about me, it is about them taking responsibility and ownership,” shares Jim. It takes the right talent to become entrepreneurs and then the right environment to let their ideas blossom. “I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to apply all the knowledge I learned from my Nexus school lessons to real life.” That’s the Nexus Way.