Meet Damien Meunier, Head of Entrepreneurship and Learning Partnerships
Dick Smith, Janine Allis, John Ilhan, Kayla Itsines, Rupert Murdoch—and the list goes on…
Australia has a rich history of producing driven entrepreneurs who take a clever and innovative idea and turn it into a highly successful enterprise. In 2021, many of those entrepreneurs are getting younger—with some of them still at school or university when they create their startups.
Some schools are realising the importance of harnessing this creativity and are supporting students in their business endeavours by offering opportunities for young people to develop their ideas and to learn the skills that are required to succeed as an entrepreneur.
At Haileybury, Damien Meunier, Head of Entrepreneurship and Learning Partnerships, formally introduces students to the world of startups from Year 5. The School has programs across year levels, within the curriculum and extra- or co-curricular, that give students insight and practical experience on what it takes to get a business off the ground and to keep it afloat.
“Entrepreneurship and Enterprise is one of Haileybury’s four pillars, and the programs we run at various year levels help students develop the entrepreneurial mindset,” says Mr Meunier.
“We want our students to look at the world’s problems as opportunities and instead of sitting back and complaining, we want students to work out how you can turn a problem into an opportunity and improve the situation. We want students to be problem solvers, risk takers and to see failure as a ‘first attempt in learning’ and to learn that they may have to try and try and try with a startup before it takes off.”
From Years 5 to 7, students take part in the $20 Boss program founded by the Foundation for Young Australians. In teams, students develop a business idea, pitch to a panel and, if their pitch is successful, they receive $20 to begin building their business. Haileybury students have started businesses producing bath bombs, customised clothing, stationery, perfumes and boardgames, to name a few. All money raised through their sales is donated to charities chosen by the students.
“Since 2020, we now offer Entrepreneurship as an academic subject in Year 8. In the subject ‘Start Up’ students create a startup from ideation to pitching and launching. For many students, this is their first taste of this different kind of learning,” says Mr Meunier.
“At the end of the year, we hold a Pitch Showcase where teams from across all our campuses come together to pitch their startups for the chance to receive $1,000 seed funding. Last year, the best girls team developed a contraption that converted a home bath into a dog bath. The winning boys team focused on managing sporting injuries and created a smart-bandage that measured the amount of inflammation in an injured ankle, for example. That information was fed back to an app to show if the injury was healing.”
The Pitch Showcase People’s Choice Award was won by a team of girls who designed a digital platform to help their peers find part-time jobs and also provided tips and advice on how to write resumes and prepare for a job interview.
Mr Meunier has also introduced a complementary mentor program for the Year 8 Startup subject where 40 young professionals working in startups link with students each month via Zoom to discuss the progress of the students’ startups and provide advice.
“We are now exploring how we might push this model into other subject areas and have mentors in Computing, The Arts and Science, for example, who can work with our students. I am working on building those learning partnerships across more diverse subject areas,” says Mr Meunier.
In Year 9, students participate in a five-day, design-thinking sprint called the Haileybury Incubator Project (HIP). This program further embeds entrepreneurial, creative thinking and business skills and allows students to connect with industry professionals who share their experience and advice.
“I enjoy watching students approach problems and then come up with their solutions. It is exciting when they see where they can take their ideas,” says Mr Meunier.
“We are all familiar with the notion that our students today will eventually work in jobs that don’t yet exist. So, we want our young people to have the mindset and confidence that they can take on any situation and thrive.”