Student entrepreneurs handed $20,000 Big Break

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Two Queensland University of Technology students are looking to shake up the social entrepreneurship space after winning the $20,000 top prize at the annual Big Break Project, organised by accountancy body CPA.

 

Sam Senior and James Robertson emerged from hundreds of applications, and six other finalists from across Australia and New Zealand, to win the competition to come up with an innovative solution to a real-life business problem.

 

The duo looked at ways of raising funds for the Make-A-Wish children’s charity, which had been forced to put a freeze on new wishes due to a $3.71 million funding shortfall.

 

Their solution was to encourage shoppers to “round up” their grocery bill when shopping at Coles, a Make-A-Wish partner, with the difference donated to the charity.

 

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“If somebody is buying $29.72 of groceries, the staff member can ask them if they want to round up the total value of their basket and donate the difference to Make-A-Wish,” says Robertson.

 

“We ran 1,000 simulations to account for variations in customer participation rates and donations and – given that Coles has 78 million customer transactions per month – our models found that Make-A-Wish would receive $10.8 million over the month-long campaign.”

 

Senior says that the concept of rounding up bills for causes is a new concept to Australia and could be commercialised with other businesses, such as hotels with large numbers of business travellers.

 

“We looked at how to leverage the partnerships on an ongoing basis, rather than rely on one-off donations,” he says. “We did some research and saw that this has been trialled overseas. We costed it for Coles and found that they would make a return on investment for modifying their systems.”

 

It’s expected that Make-A-Wish will now work will Coles to implement the system in-store, ahead of a potential wider roll out with other partners.

 

Senior and Robertson plan to use the $20,000 prize money on a nascent social enterprise venture, with the duo also mulling over start-up opportunities in the health and education sectors.

 

They will also represent QUT in the next Citi Bank international business competition in Hong Kong in November.

 

“We are looking at a few ideas that will be for-profit but for social good,” says Senior. “I think there’s a very good opportunity to do something different in this area.”

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