Bid for Audacious business challenge contestants

Kate Turnbull is keen for students and the business community to become involved with the...
Kate Turnbull is keen for students and the business community to become involved with the Audacious business challenge. Photo by Linda Robertson.

Kate Turnbull wants to encourage more Dunedin students to be audacious.

Ms Turnbull (33) is the new co-ordinator of the Audacious business challenge, the year-long student start-up challenge jointly supported by the University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic and the Dunedin City Council.

This year's challenge will be officially launched at a function at the university's Hunter Centre on March 20.

Ms Turnbull, who recently returned to Dunedin after three years working in Sydney, was excited about the year ahead.

The competition was open to all students at the university and polytechnic with round one involving submitting a business idea for judging.

The second round got ''a bit more serious'' with students submitting a business plan and then pitching their concept in a Dragons' Den scenario.

Originally from Akaroa, Ms Turnbull boarded at Waitaki Girls' High School before heading to Dunedin in 1999 and completing a bachelor of tourism and a master's degree in business, majoring in marketing, at the University of Otago.

After graduating, she headed to Canada and worked in Vancouver and the ski resort of Whistler before returning to Dunedin for a projects role at the university's School of Business.

That was followed by two years in London, where she worked at a private preparatory school frequented by ''lots of very wealthy people''.

The parents had private planes and employed nannies, butlers and people to drive their children to school.

''It was just fascinating, a real insight into different people's lives,'' she said.

Education was in Ms Turnbull's blood - her parents and various family members were teachers - and while she never wanted to be a teacher, she enjoyed working at the school and also in higher education.

Saying with a laugh that she ''boomeranged back and forth'', she returned to Dunedin and the School of Business, working in web development and co-ordinating the internship programme.

That was followed by a three-year stint in Sydney, working in an internship programme management role and marketing at a university.

She returned to Dunedin at the end of December, accompanied by her Australian partner, with the city now ''kind of home''.

''I just love Dunedin. I don't really know what it is about it. It's got such a great lifestyle,'' she said.

After travelling for long periods to get across Sydney, she loved being able to ''get across town in 10 minutes'' and there was a nice sense of community, compared with living in big cities.

The Audacious job was a perfect fit for Ms Turnbull, who loved working with students.

''They are an interesting bunch to work with - challenging at times, definitely entertaining,'' she laughed.

When Ms Turnbull finished her tertiary studies, she believed she lacked some of the ''real-world stuff'' that was not on offer back then.

There were many opportunities now for students to do things outside of class and getting practical experience was very important, as a degree was often not enough, she said.

Dunedin was ''full of pretty amazing people doing amazing things'' and she was impressed with what she had discovered was going on in the city.

One of her priorities through Audacious was to raise the profile of Dunedin as somewhere to stay after university.

She cited MeatMail as a ''great little story'' and a good example of what could happen with Audacious.

Founders David Booth and Harry Uffindell launched the subscriber-based home delivery service in 2012 and the start-up was second in that year's Audacious competition.

Mr Uffindell recently left a law career in Auckland to return to Dunedin and help drive growth of the business.

They would be speaking at the launch.

Another priority for Ms Turnbull was engaging with students across both of the campuses.

In the past, the majority of Audacious entrants had been business students.

A goal this year was to have interdisciplinary teams and even inter-campus teams, with help provided to put teams together.

Often students worked with their friends but friends tended to have similar skill sets, she said.

With a broader range of students involved, she would also like to engage with an even more diverse group of people across the business community.

Every year, there were sponsors, mentors, presenters and judges from the business community and she was keen to hear from anyone interested in being involved.

''It's a great way to engage with a really interesting and motivated group of students,'' she said.

Business coach Paul Allen and entrepreneur-in-residence Henk Roodt were both available for one-on-one advice.

Three workshops would be held in March and April, business ideas to be submitted early in May.

The first-round awards late would be held that month, second semester workshops starting in late July and running through August.

September was when the Dragons' Den-style session was held, business plans were submitted and the final awards held.

It was a tight time frame because of the academic year.

Social entrepreneurship was becoming very popular and she was hoping to attract a few entrants with that perspective.

Even if entrants decided not to continue with the competition aspect, she hoped they would continue to come to workshops.

''Exciting stuff'' had happened for many Audacious alumni and Ms Turnbull also hoped to track down former entrants to see what they were up to.

Last year's competition was won by Otago Polytechnic information technology students Karyn Costello, Hannah Carey and Stephen Sugrue with Student Support, a mobile app that allows students to access personalised support services anywhere at any time.

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