“Do you want to be a judge at this year’s Young Enterprise Awards? It is on the 29th of October - last year you were travelling, I hope not this year.”
When Ventura Fitzgerald, the Coordinator of the Event contacted me via LinkedIn, I knew right away that this year I can and I will say #YES. Yes to the Young Enterprise Regional Final and Awards, yes to supporting today's youthful leaders and tomorrow's best startups in our region.
Yes to connecting with our local community. Yes to celebrating and encouraging entrepreneurship. And yes to passing on the knowledge and experience I have gathered along the years.
I knew I will have messages to share. I knew there will be ears that will listen and embrace it.
But little did I know how this experience will make me reflect, re-evaluate. Tune in and grow.
Here is a story of what I learned from the Regional YES Awards.
Inspired by #judgelife.
...I logged back on to my LinkedIn. Ventura almost instantly got back to me with a "whoowho!", all the details, and soon I was immersed in preparing for the big night, checking out the finalists on the Internet.
Four teams made it to the Nelson-Tasman finals this time, with Year 12 and 13 students, and they were going to pitch their business to a panel of judges. I was one of the 5.
This is where everything was going to happen... But first...
With The Team, we met at the Green Room to prepare ahead of the big night. Being surrounded by amazing local professionals like Amy Cunningham, Co-Founder of Benjamin Black Goldsmiths, Nikki Neate, Global Marketing Manager of Pic's Peanut Butter, Richard Butler of Genratec and Tim Saunders, Commercialisation Manager of Kono, contributed to the flow of ideas and how to structure our questions.
Lucky us, as Ventura, Liz Pittman from the YES Trust, Richard Chadderton of Concept Cube and MC Sarah Derecourt of Media Works all made it super easy and provided all the necessary background information we needed.
We exchanged ideas, we brainstormed, we discussed, and we laughed a lot.
My first takeaway for the evening: being surrounded by a team where everyone has different strengths and expertise makes everything much more interesting. There is a big potential for growth. The outcomes of the discussions and the actions we took resulted to be extremely rich and efficient as our strengths added up.
There is always something new to learn.
“If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.
And let it all begin. During the evening, each of the top teams pitched to the judges, each had 5 minutes to talk about their business, their plans. We learned about them. And we learned from them.
The finalist for the Nelson Tasman region were:
Invest in Yourself, a creative wall planner that actually hangs on the wall to help manage the time of school leavers and prepare for their future;
It's always so inspiring to hear fresh new ideas from the next generation, pointing towards the future, with fresh new perspectives. So many great things can emerge from and thanks to an event like this.
As judges, we had 2 minutes to ask our questions from each team. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the participants' use of Social Media channels, their plans to leverage the platforms to get more visibility and grow their businesses, and of course hearing the takeaways and insights from my fellow judges on what they thought of the pitches afterwards.
The evening was rich in events, from celebrating business excellence and young entrepreneurs, to connecting with our local community, the handing out of several awards, and of course, the highlight - the announcement of the winner Team.
Congratulations to Limitless, the winning Team who will represent our Region at the National Finals, and all the finalists - what a wonderful achievement for all!
As the night came to an end, I was full of new learnings, new inspiration.
And also, full of emotions that helped me tap into something much bigger than I could ever foresee before the event.
One of the things that had probably the most significant impact on me was the power of support and teamwork I witnessed. Whether I was observing the Teams presenting their pitches on stage, showing up together, while each team member having their own "script" and role to present a certain aspect of their business, or seeing the mentors in the background caring for, or a family member proudly looking up on stage and crossing fingers for their team ... well, that was magical.
It took me back to my own experiences.
Entering a competition. Being on stage. Being judged. Being awarded. Or not being awarded.
Showing up. Starting out. Going forward.
Whatever the outcome, the process, the journey, I tapped into the feeling of being supported. I will always remember my team - whether it was one single person or more -, the people who cheered for me, and the people who were there for me in those special moments, and the support I felt from them in those very moments.
The first moments, when I didn't always believe in myself. But they did. They pushed me on stage. They held my hand. They pushed me forward.
Then, the moments when I started to believe in myself. When going forward got easier and smoother. Then, they lifted me even higher.
And the moments when I simply believed in myself. Because I knew I've got this. No matter what. Then, they were still there, too, to celebrate. Together with me.
She believed she could, so she did.
This night made me tap into what it took, and what it takes to believe in myself.
Believing in myself was a journey. Often, it still is.
It might be a journey for you, too, or someone you know.
Being surrounded by people who believe in you. Who support you. Who encourage you. Who dare to dream with you. Who bring out the best in you. Who give you wings to fly. Powerful.
And maybe, being this person for someone you care for today. Powerful.
Until we all find our way...
Over and over again.
The most powerful of all.
A big thank you to Ventura Fitzgerald for inviting me to be part of the #YES Regional Final and Awards judge panel, I will treasure these moments for long.
A huge shout out to the organisers, the participants, my fellow judges and the finalists who inspired me, and to Judene Edgar & Liz Pittman for the lovely photos they shared.
About Bea Pole-Bokor
Hi, I'm Bea!