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Bond student wins Australia's premier new venture competition

Former Gold Coast high school teacher and Bond University representative, Shilo Mahoney, has won Australia’s premier new venture competition – the 2011 John Heine Entrepreneurial Challenge – held in Brisbane over two days earlier this month.

Competing against teams from Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland, Melbourne’s RMIT, University of NSW, Swinburne and the University of Adelaide, the EMBA graduate impressed a judging panel comprising some of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs with his business case for an international education institute.

Shilo’s prize purse included $10,000 in seed funding for his new venture and $15,000 to cover the cost of his travel to Texas in 2012 to compete in the international Venture Labs Investment Competition (formerly Moot Corp).

“It was a very unexpected win,” said Shilo, who is currently Sales and Marketing Manager for his family’s Brisbane-based construction company.

“Putting my pitch together for the Robertson International Academy was a really intensive process that required compiling detailed plans for the fund sourcing, establishment, financial and operational aspects of the concept, as well as a 60-second video presentation and a showcase display.

“The other teams put forward some really outstanding proposals and I was hoping to make the top three, so I was thrilled to be named the overall winner in such a competitive field.”

The John Heine Entrepreneurial Challenge is an Australia-wide competition for university-based teams, designed to increase the success rate of new ventures and encourage young entrepreneurs.

Candidates are required to prepare a bona fide business plan which they then have the opportunity to present to a panel of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and CEOs.

“Just going through the process of preparing an entry is a defining moment for business students,” said Shilo’s Academic Advisor and competition mentor, Assistant Professor Baden U’Ren from Bond University.

“It focuses their efforts on putting a solid structure around their business idea, enabling them to transform the concept into reality.

“Bond  Business students have notched up an impressive record of success as a result of the John Heine Entrepreneurial Challenge, with three of our previous entries now operating as fully fledged businesses, including Cleanspray which won in 2007.”

For Shilo, the two days of John Heine presentation were also a key networking opportunity.

“You’re mixing with a group of people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet: The other candidates who have plans to start their own businesses and the high profile judges who are all leaders in their respective industries,” he said.

“Those contacts will be invaluable as I move into the next phase of seeking out investors to establish the Robertson International Academy.”

Having taught at St Stephens College on the Gold Coast for several years, Shilo was inspired to enrol in Bond University’s Executive MBA by his father’s enthusiasm and success in running Mahoney Constructions for almost 30 years.

The flexible delivery structure of Bond’s EMBA program allowed Shilo to continue teaching while studying but, mid-way through the course, he decided to join his father in the family business.

“It was really satisfying to see how the knowledge and skills I was acquiring at Bond could be immediately applied to help our business,” he said.

Shilo’s winning venture combines those newly-gained business skills with his in-depth knowledge of the education field.

The Robertson International Academy would fill a significant gap in the market by providing International Baccalaureate, Diploma of Business and English language studies for international and domestic high school students in the 14-to-17 age group. 

It is tentatively planned for a Gold Coast location but Shilo is also considering opportunities in Sydney and Melbourne. He hopes to have the required funding in place by mid-2012 for a 2014 start date.

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