The sky is the limit for our 2020 UpSchool Pitch comp winners, Meg, Audrey and Kate, of Strathcona Girls Grammar, who took out the title with their Envision Marketplace online sales platform.

Year 9 students Audrey, Meg and Kate have a keen interest in information technology. They’re part of the Tech Club at Strathcona Girls Grammar, and are intent on learning as much as they can about designing, building and managing websites.

So when the opportunity arose to build an online sales platform as part of their Year 9 Envision project, they jumped at it. They began working on the project with the assistance of their Information Tech teacher, with the view to help their peers sell their own products from the Envision project through the site.

‘When we started building the site, the idea was to have the online marketplace sit alongside the physical one which is normally held for all the businesses here at school,’ Audrey says.

‘Then the second wave [of COVID-19] came in Melbourne and a physical marketplace was out of the question, which actually worked out quite well for us as everyone had to use our website to sell their products.’

The girls created two subscription models for their business, taking advantage of differing approaches to the project amongst their peer group.

‘We decided that the people who were taking the project a bit more seriously, and who were prepared to pay a premium, could be up the top of site pages and be featured in a slideshow on the homepage,’ Meg says.

‘The people who weren’t as involved still got everything the needed from the store, but they just didn’t get as much exposure.’

The two subscription models return between 2.5 – 5% of sales from each business to the Envision Marketplace, with Meg, Audrey and Kate in charge of managing the back and front ends of the site, as well as providing tech support to their customers.

And with their burgeoning business bringing in real profits, the girls submitted their business pitch to the 2020 Wade Institute UpSchool Pitch Competition, of which they were crowned the inaugural winners.

As their prize, they were invited to take part in a Melbourne Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Tour, hosted by Wade Institute. The girls met founders and representatives from the Melbourne Accelerator Program, Translation Research at Melbourne (TRaM), Startup Victoria and Wade Institute, getting a taste for what starting a business is really like and some serious inspiration from successful females across the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

‘The Ecosystem Tour was such a great experience, and we learnt a lot about entrepreneurship, including lots of terms we hadn’t heard before like accelerators and incubators,’ Meg says.

‘It was also great to learn more about the process of coming up with an idea, and things like pain points and finding ways to solve them. Some of the problem-solving strategies were really interesting to learn about, and it was so fascinating to hear about some of the projects people were working on.’

So, with an UpSchool Pitch Comp title and Ecosystem Tour under their belts, what’s next for these budding entrepreneurs?

‘We’re looking at starting a separate company – a similar concept to Envision Marketplace, but we’re calling it SparkHub,’ Audrey says.

‘We don’t think there’s really much of a place for young entrepreneurs to sell their products outside their family or friend network, and we think our concept can help fill that gap.’

While SparkHub is still only in its early stages of development, the girls are confident the skills they’ve learnt building the Envision Marketplace will serve them well in getting the project off the ground.

‘The whole experience has been so helpful, and we’ve learnt so much,’ Meg says.

‘From building and managing the back and frontend of the website, to communication skills, learning about pain points and pivoting ideas, and working in customer service and making it as simple as people as possible…there really is so much!’

UpSchool Workshops  are practical professional development programs giving educators the skills, experience, and connections to facilitate the entrepreneurial development of their students, delivered at Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship. Learn more or enquire now.