By Vanessa Lur (19S06Q) and Isabelle Tan (19S03S)
Photos courtesy of Li Ruiqi (19A01A) and Rachel Tan (19S03T) from Raffles Photographic Society
As the crowd moved away from the Performing Arts Centre (PAC) towards the dinner reception, smiles were all around and laughter could be heard echoing across the hall. One person in particular, Jiang Jin Liang (19S06N), the head of the planning committee for RBS, could be seen walking around with a look of relief, a stark contrast to his previously tense countenance. Raffles Business Symposium (RBS), an annual event held by Raffles Entrepreneur’s Network (REN) had just ended, boasting an attendance of roughly 100 youths from various schools, all with a common passion for business and entrepreneurship.
The event revolved around a business competition, where teams had to adhere to the theme of Environmental Sustainability and pitch business ideas that were both feasible and innovative. Notable judges for the competition included the Founder of Refash Pte Ltd, Mr Aloysius Ng, Co-founder of Etrican, Mr Dragos Necula, Head Of DBS foundation, Ms Claire Wong-Low, Sustainability Manager for H&M, Ms Wong Xin Yi and the Sustainability Lead for Interface Asia, Ms Karen Lee. As entrepreneurs with already successful startups or whom have had experiences dealing with environmentally sustainable businesses, the judges provided valuable feedback to participants by providing insights into the real world, bringing (grandiose) business plans of imaginative bright-eyed students back to earth and instilling realitism into their solutions. During the Q and A segment of the competition where the judges got the chance to ask the teams questions to implore further about their ideas, they posed prompts regarding the feasibility of their ideas and the challenges of bringing them to life.
With the finalists consisting of 1 team from Raffles Institution and 3 teams from St. Joseph’s Institution, the business proposals presented were innovative and eye-opening, capturing the audience’s attention and shedding light on environmental issues that most of us are either unaware of or simply choose to ignore. Team SPARC from Raffles Institution served to solve food wastage caused by cosmetic filtering of fruits and vegetables, where ‘ugly’ produce are thrown away as they are undesirable to the masses. They came up with a unique solution named ‘Sparklecube’, a detergent cube made from these ‘ugly’ produce which would otherwise be wasted. By utilizing enzymes called proteases which are naturally-occurring in certain fruits like pineapples and papayas, ‘Sparklecube’ can break down and loosen stains on clothing, making it an effective cleansing agent. The detergent cubes will also be packaged plastic free to help combat the problem of our landfills being increasingly filled with plastic, which can take up to 500 years to decompose. Especially with our limited land space, plastic waste is definitely a serious issue in Singapore.
Another initiative was proposed by Team Strati from St. Joseph’s Institution, which invented a mobile application called ‘Recycle and Go!’ to instil the spirit of recycling in Singaporean households by making recycling more convenient. Hinging on the root cause of the issue–that Singaporeans are often confused about and find it a hassle to separate their recyclables–the mobile application will be linked to a vending machine that allows the user to deposit recyclables into. After which, the vending machine will automatically separate the recyclables into metals and plastics respectively. The application can even be used to scan the QR code on the vending machine to attain discounts, e-cash and other rewards to incentivise Singaporeans to recycle more often. This initiative aimed to tackle the lack of recycling culture in Singapore and hopefully inspire a change in the recycling habits of Singaporean households.
Throughout the event, the audience listened rapturously, some typing furiously on their laptops to take down valuable information from the talks and presentations. Others decided against copying frantically and chose to instead pay closer attention to what was being shared. Alas, as the last team finished up their presentation, the judges were met with the challenging decision of which team to give the championship title (and the prize of $300 worth of vouchers) to. The atmosphere was tense, as the finalists craned their necks to steal a peek at the judges while they were deciding on their final verdict.
In the end, Team SPARC emerged champions for their well thought-out idea and creativity. The event ended on a high note with a dinner catered by REN, where audience members could engage in conversation and make friends over dinner.
According to the Vice-president of REN, Jin Liang, the aim of this symposium was “to gather like-minded young entrepreneurs from various schools to come together and meet new people.” Jin Liang also commented on his experience throughout the meticulous planning process: “There were many things to settle and many details to check [on]. There was no format or ‘model answer’ [to follow] so I had to think on my feet when unexpected incidences cropped up instead of asking others what to do.”
Liew Li Ren (19S03A), the president of REN, also shared that the planning of this event took about a year’s time, as the previous batch of REN members had already started contacting judges and laying out the groundwork since last year.
Indeed, the sheer amount of time and effort put into preparing for this event is a clear indication that planning for this competition was much more complex than one would expect. Despite this, the event was a success with its smooth programme flow and a sizeable turn out.
As lighthearted chatter and laughter ensued on the way to the dinner venue, it was heartwarming to see that at the end of the day, the competition was not about winning, but about meeting like-minded people with the shared passion for entrepreneurship and whom want to spark a change in our world. With environmental issues becoming a growing concern worldwide, it was truly inspiring to hear from these teams their innovative methods to solve these critical issues, while still keeping their ideas practical.
Second runners-up: Team Strati from Saint Joseph’s Institution
First runners-up: Team Red Blood Cell from Saint Joseph’s Institution
Champion: Team SPARC from Raffles Institution