Mentoring and Youth Enterprise Go Hand-in-Hand – An Interview with Stephanie Benseman

18 May 2017

21 year-old Stephanie Benseman’s journey to becoming one of New Zealand’s promising young entrepreneurs began when she took part in The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) as an extra-curricular activity in her final year of high school.

Stephanie Bensamen

With her team, she launched Reverb Boutique which produced unique shift dresses made from recycled fabrics. Besides providing Stephanie with practical skills in supply chain management, marketing, e-commerce and finance, being involved in YES gave her the confidence boost she needed to pursue entrepreneurship as a career.

“Being an entrepreneur requires an excessive amount of hard work but after experiencing the passion I had for running our YES company and how dedicated you can be to something no matter how hard it gets, I was inspired to continue this throughout my career,” says Stephanie. 

After taking part in YES, she went on to participate in Venture Up, a six-week entrepreneurship accelerator for young people. Mentoring is a big feature of this programme and she recalls the massive benefits derived from her experience.

“The people I met through Venture Up were what really propelled my journey. The Creative HQ crew were the biggest influencers; they're a group of super-talented and all round cool people. My team members and the other Venture Up participants were incredible, it's the best feeling being surrounded by a group of people who share the same motivated mindset as you. The mentors were next level – some of New Zealand's top entrepreneurs who have had amazing career journeys. The programme taught me you can learn something from absolutely everyone and any kind of situation, good or bad.” 

Stephanie kick-started her current enterprise at Venture Up. Filtr is a recruitment platform that supports connection between tertiary students and employers. Targeted at students and graduates, Filtr allows jobseekers to create a profile based on skills and capabilities that’s searchable by potential employers, allowing users at both ends to find a perfect match. It’s a step away from the traditional CV format. Together with her business partner, Lucas Gammie, they’re currently focusing on developing the user experience for the employers and hundreds of students that they’re working with. And they’re having fun as they do!

“Being a young entrepreneur is ideal! You can take risks with little consequence to anyone but yourself. Everyone is extremely supportive of what you’re doing and are always willing to help where they can.”

Stephanie has some good advice for any young people thinking about embarking on a youth enterprise journey.

“First, surround yourself with the right people. The New Zealand entrepreneurial community is really inclusive, there are always opportunities to get involved and meet inspiring people. They’re the kind of people who will give you the confidence to then just ‘give it a go’. Yes, you have to work hard but it’s most important to just try new things. If you’re surrounded by the right people, no one will judge you negatively for failing. The worst thing you can do is to not try at all.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all of Stephanie’s time is tied up with Filtr. But you’d be wrong. Besides running her own business, she’s a fourth-year student at Victoria University Wellington where she’s studying information systems and commercial law. She also works as the Communications and Marketing Manager for Young Enterprise and has recently taken up a partner role with First Cut Ventures (a youth-run investment fund).

To have such a lengthy list of accomplishments at such a young age is remarkable. It’s a true demonstration of just how much young people can achieve when offered the chance to participate in youth development opportunities that support them to build their capability and resilience.

We get the feeling that Stephanie’s extraordinary journey is only just beginning.

The Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) is a funder of both YES and Venture Up, supporting them to provide youth enterprise opportunities to New Zealand’s young people.