Two young Kiwis, Aidan Scott and Wendy Lee, returned home champions from the Asia-Pacific Grand Final of the FedEx Express Junior Achievement International Trade Challenge earlier this year.

Competing against students from eight other Asia Pacific countries, Aidan and Wendy were chosen from 80 high school students to represent New Zealand in the finals in Singapore.

The FedEx/JA ITC is a forum for aspiring business leaders to gather, discuss, and develop their business ideas. They’re then given the chance to take their ideas to the international market.

This year, teams has less than 24 hours to create a cohesive plan for a fast food restaurant chain that also addressed an economic issue in Cuba. They then had to give a presentation to a panel of judges.

“[It was the] worst challenge ever,” said Wendy.

Wendy and Aidan’s winning strategy was to sell Cuban food to tourists through traditional Paladar (family run restaurants), helping home-based eateries grow into successful businesses.

By sourcing food from local farms and encouraging entrepreneurship in Cuba, the pair aimed to create franchises to help stabilise and support Cubans.

While they jokingly credit coffee and Red Bull to their success, Wendy and Aiden think that being from New Zealand was their true advantage.

“I think the thing with being from New Zealand is that we have the advantage of thinking differently to other countries competing because they’re all based in Asia…the education system and the culture here is quite different,” said Wendy.

But they also practiced a lot and had a written script. They worked to each other’s strengths and were the only team that handed out a business plan and took the time to shake each of the judge’s hands.

With all their practise and hard work, they both felt they nailed their presentation and Q&A.

“If you had an idea you just took it. If it was a finance [question], then Aiden would take it,” said Wendy.

For both of them, participating and winning the challenge solidified their passion for business and their desires for their future careers.

The opportunity to visit an amazing country, as well as being given the opportunity to gain new networks and knowledge, was a great learning experience. One which they’ll never forget.