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Student startups raise almost $200,000 for charity

safe
Alice Ayton and Angus Croser of Safe Sips.

Bond University students have raised almost $200,000 for charity by launching small businesses as part of their business degrees.

The cash, which goes to charities of the students’ choice, was collected over seven years in the Business Model Execution (BMX) program.

Past business ideas include Indigenous-themed air fresheners, pet accessories, sneaker cleaning kits, teeth whitening creams and insulated wine tumblers. 

Semester Teaching Fellow Ben Hayden-Smith oversees BMX and said that since 2016, 49 teams of eight to 10 students had spent two semesters each designing commercial products and then taking them to market.

“They are given $3000 by the university as a forgivable loan and they set out to turn a profit, all of which is donated to a charity of their choice,” Mr Hayden-Smith said. 

The businesses have generated more than $309,000 in revenue and $196,000 in profits and there are confident predictions of the magical $320,000 and $200,000 marks being reached by the end of the current semester. 

It’s Shark Tank without the TV lights and the celebrity investors but it’s a fishbowl nonetheless where the students need to rely on their own resourcefulness and business smarts to get their ideas from the drawing board and into the hands of consumers.

“It is a compulsory and exclusive subject for Bachelor of Business students and for many it is their final subject because they have to be at least halfway through their degrees before they can take part,” Hayden-Smith said. 

“Last semester, the teams donated a total of $12,239 from jewellery and pet trinkets and shower steamers to the Animal Welfare League QLD, Beyond Blue and the Kid's Cancer Project. 

“And as if to highlight the diversity of the business brains at Bond, this time around our students are powering along with social conscience projects that tackle responsible alcohol consumption and a more environmentally friendly way - an eco-luxury way as they call it - to drink coffee. 

“We’ll soon have our 50th and 51st teams through the program and we are all eager to see what they come up with,” Hayden-Smith said. 

The current projects:

sea
Eva Andersson and Noah Gray of seaGLASS.

seaGLASS

seaGLASS is billed by its student creators as the ultimate eco-luxury reusable coffee cup, stylishly designed from reclaimed glass with a vegan leather grip sleeve. 

The cups provide an environmentally friendly way to take coffee in a country where 75 percent of its adult population drink at least one cup a day. 

And according to team member Nic Papadakis the product choice was a “no brainer” after extensive on-campus research.

“We examined consumer demands around campus and found that away from study Bond students are big on three things – food, drink and the protection and sustainability of our beaches and waterways,” Papadakis said.

“Realising that so many Bond students swim and surf each day and that plenty are active members of surf life saving clubs, it was easy to get early consensus within our group that whatever product we land on should be customised towards them, their tastes and their social lives. 

“So, we created a coffee cup that is functional, environmentally responsible and aesthetically pleasing,” he said. 

The 10 seaGLASS students divide responsibility between themselves for the project finances, design, inventory, marketing, e-commerce and sales of the 500 units that they have ordered. 

And those sales are already boosting the coffers of Take 3 For The Sea, a national charity that asks beachgoers and other waterways visitors to take three pieces of rubbish home with them from every visit.

seaGLASS Marketing Manager Eva Andersson said it is the perfect conscience coupling. 

“Take 3 for the Sea’s commitment is to not only clean up beaches but also raise awareness and educate the public on the importance of reducing single-use plastics. 

“That aligns perfectly with our collective vision for a more sustainable and cleaner environment,” she said. 

Fellow team member Kaitlyn Byrne, who is studying Business and International Relations, said stock supply issues provided early headaches but seem to have been overcome as sales ramp up and the end of the semester approaches. 

“We found working closely with the charity was a great way to get the word out to a key audience through their website blogs and the like and that and our other networking efforts have resulted in interest from local cafes and even customers in Victoria.

“We also have the ability to laser imprint corporate logos onto the multi-colour gripper bands, which has let us achieve some larger orders,” she said.

Safe Sips

Finding a gap in the Australian market for any product around responsible alcohol consumption might sound a tough ask, but the Bond University Safe Sips team have nailed it. 

As an outcome of the Business Model Generation and its successor Business Model Execution capstone class the project saw the students marketing and selling small affordable electronic breathalysers to create a more responsible drinking environment. 

And their successful marketing efforts have seen the breathalysers completely sell out before semester end. 

According to project co-founder Angus Croser the team decided to be realistic about drinking by young adults. 

“Any attempt to lessen alcohol consumption in Australian society would seem to be a massive undertaking, particularly for students with limited time and budget, so we instead identified a gap in the Australian market for affordable yet high-quality breathalysers,” Croser said. 

“With most breathalysers on the market costing hundreds of dollars or more, they are hardly within the budgets of students and others who simply want to ensure their own safety and that of their friends when they go to pick up the car keys.

“Our reusable keychain breathalysers sold for $69.99, and we also offered disposable single-use testers for $5 with 100 percent of the sales profits going to the national drug and alcohol support organisation DrugARM,” he said.  

To be sure, the Safe Sips students are tackling a massive social problem by eliminating the guesswork of drivers unsure of how close they are to the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limits.

But the team can also be heartened by recently released figures by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that reveal that in 2022-2023 Australia’s youth drinking habits underwent considerable shifts.

Their studies found about 30 percent of teenagers aged 14-17 reported drinking alcohol, a notable decrease from previous study periods, and binge drinking within the cohort has decreased by 15 percent, which they say is a promising trend. 

The Institute attributes the downward shifts to a range of factors including greater awareness of the health consequences of excessive drinking by young people, changing social and economic circumstances, community efforts and school programs and more visible government public health initiatives.

“Safe Sips project co-founder Alice Ayton says the studies also confirm the selection of the affordable breathalysers for the project was an inspired choice. 

“It shows things moving in the right direction in Australia with our products tapping into a growing realisation that people of all ages must take responsibility for their alcohol consumption,” Ayton said.

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