January 20, 2012 (Fri)Young Entrepreneurs Aim To Boost Ishinomaki
This week I visited Ishinomaki Senshu University to help judge a business plan contest aimed at reviving the disaster-hit city of Ishinomaki. The program run by Dr.Takeru Ohe, founder of NPO My Vision and backed by Asia Seed uses consulting-based learning methodology, known as COBLAS, to connect students with local small-to-mid sized enterprises to exchange ideas through real-life training and work experience.
NPO My Vision team and founder Dr. Takeru Ohe （in green）, next to Mobby Dick manager Tadahiro Kimura（center）
Upon entering the large classroom in Ishinomaki Senshu University I could feel the tension mounting of the thirty plus students in Professor Yamazaki’s entrepreneur seminar. Today was what they had spent months preparing for, an opportunity to present their business plans to a potential client to revive the disaster-hit coastal city of Ishinomaki in Tohoku.
The aim of the contest is to design a product that would help revive the area and present its selling points within a five-minute time frame. By collaborating with wetsuit maker, Mobby Dick based in Ishinomaki City, one of the hardest hit areas in Tohoku, the students focused on making products specifically out of neoprene, the material used to make wetsuits.
Students present their product idea, a stuff-animal whale made of neoprene.
The professor said, “Please start Group number 1.” The first group consisting of five members went up to the stage. The group leader started off with what’s known as an “elevator speech,” a concise and catchy blurb about a business idea that an entrepreneur would have ready to spring on a potential investor in sixty seconds, just long enough to take an elevator ride.
Second year student Aika Suzuki shows off her team's obento lunch bag.
“A neoprene obento (lunch box) carrying bag would be ideal so that even if food items leak, your bag will not be ruined and it is completely washable as well, “ began the first speaker. Tadahiro Kimura, production manager at Mobby Dicksat in the front row feverishly taking notes as the students explained their product ideas.
At the end of the session, a total of eight exhausted groups had presented product ideas including slippers, digital camera cases, phone covers, and a stuff whale toy, all of which included target audience, unit cost, and other selling points well enough to impress any investor.
On the way back to Sendai station I asked Dr.Ohe what motivated him to start this project in which replied, “These young entrepreneurs hold the key in reviving disaster hit areas. Creating new opportunities is the only way, and these young people are Japan’s hope for making a much needed positive change.”
All members of the Ishinomaki business plan contest run by NPO My Vision and Asia Seed.
On that note, I’d like to introduce today’s video on joint-cooperation after the March disaster titled, “Shared Farming After March 11th.
That’s all for me today. Have a great day and see you next week!
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