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Saigon Enterprise Challenge 2021 Review

The Saigon Enterprise Challenge entrepreneurial competition has been in existence for over 10 years. At its heart is the aim to provide Year 12 students with an opportunity to develop a product or service from inception to production and experience what it involves to run a small business.

SEC 2021 - 2

But the reality is that the journey through the Saigon Enterprise Challenge is so much more…...over the years we have developed a programme which takes students far outside their comfort zone and exposes them to real life scenarios that many of them may be experiencing for the first time. 

Prior to the Covid-19 Global pandemic, the Saigon Enterprise Challenge was an inter-school competition involving a number of international schools throughout Ho Chi Minh City. Unfortunately the 2019/2020 competition was cancelled but this year, after much deliberation, we decided to start the programme, albeit as an internal competition, in hope rather than expectation that we would see the challenge through to fruition. So it was in August 2020, six teams of Year 12 students; Carity, Phanes, Oasis, Plant Box, Epilogue and Wudz: By Francis set out on a seven month journey which culminated in the final on Thursday 1st April 2021 in the Theatre at BIS HCMC. 

  • SEC 2021 - STALLS 1
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  • SEC 2021 - STALLS 3
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  • SEC 2021 - STALLS 5

The six teams spent much of Term 1 conducting their market research, a period which saw many of the teams come up with business propositions, then change their mind in the face of unfavourable public opinion. At this point they also had to decide which local charity to support to fulfill the social enterprise criteria of the challenge, a key element we have been promoting extensively in  recent years. This period also saw the teams have to identify ways to raise finance for their final product or service; whilst having the opportunity to raise capital via selling of shares and a loan from the Business & Economics department at favourable interest rates, the emphasis was on the teams to use local events in school and within the community to raise the necessary funds to finance production. 

Having successfully reached the end of Term 1, the six teams embarked on a trading period of 8 weeks between January and March. Each team was responsible for creating their own marketing buzz, finding the most cost effective but high profile means of promoting and advertising their product to the target market. The students showed fantastic creativity and innovation to bring their product to the forefront of their customers' awareness, utlising a host of traditional and modern marketing methods to raise their teams profile. 

As April approached and the end of the challenge came into view, the six teams embarked on their final tasks - to create a professional Business Report to present to the three guest judges at the Saigon Enterprise Challenge Final and create a stall to showcase their product and the journey they had undertaken over the previous seven months. 

The final itself took place last Thursday, the culmination of nearly seven months of hard work and perseverance. Having set out in August 2020 in the middle of a global pandemic, the six teams successfully navigated supplier issues, marketing challenges, time management problems and even internal team conflict to reach the final and compete for a total of seven awards. We welcomed three young entrepreneurs from the Saigon business world; Angelica Pothos, Brand Manager for the Reverie Saigon, Javier Ballve, founder of Hustle Vietnam and Ricardo Glencasa, founder of Genderfunk Vietnam, who together had the unenviable task of judging the outstanding six finalists in the seven categories. 

  • SEC 2021 - Judges 1
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Every team shone on the evening and every student who participated rose to all the challenges they have faced over the seven month duration of the competition. However, as is often the case in the business world, there had to be a winner. After much deliberation, the judges reached their conclusions and overall the night belonged to ‘Plant Box’ who won four awards including ‘Best Company Overall.’

The full list of winners:

Plant Box:       Environmental & Ethical Award

Plant Box:       Most Innovative Product Award

Plant Box:       Best Marketing Strategy Award

Phanes:           Best Stall Award

Epilogue:        Best Business report Award

Oasis:              Best Presentation Award

Plant Box:       Best Overall Team Award


The final business reports of all the teams can be found below:

Wudz: By Francis


Plant Box




  • SEC 2021 - Awards 4
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  • SEC 2021 - Awards 3

Whilst the final itself was a huge success and the winners rightfully celebrated, the key learning took place throughout the course of the journey. As previously mentioned, the Saigon Enterprise Challenge is deliberately designed to stretch students, to take them far outside their comfort zones and expose them to real life experiences which develop the transferable skills necessary for life at university and are so sought after by employers in the competitive world of work. The reflections of students who participated in the Saigon Enterprise Challenge underlines just how far the project goes in achieving those aims:


“By challenging myself with things I've never done before, I've learnt and grown the most in the last 7 months than my entire life. SEC has truly taught me that leadership is more than just organizing and delegating tasks to members of the team. I've learnt that a good leader knows how to keep every member motivated and committed to perform and produce their best possible outcome. A good leader is a role model that all members respect and knows they receive the same. A great leader is someone who show the team members' his/her vision and inspire them. I believe  this skill will contribute beyond my school and university life. It will definitely be crucial in group projects in school and universities as well as for my working life. Although, I have many to improve on but this challenge has helped me to understand the skills that I truly lack in in order to run a successful business. I appreciate all the tough challenges and problems that came along the way and made me struggle more than I wanted, because thanks to all of those, I've grown out of this with more experiences, valuable lessons, and able to identify my weak and strong skills, to improve on.

Ngoc Han Huynh
Carity, Managing Director 

Carity - SEC 2021

“As someone who had no knowledge about business prior to the competition, the enterprise was a very educational journey. I was able to experience, first hand, what it is like to be apart of a business. The enterprise put me in a position where I didn’t only learn about the depths of marketing and HR but also it also gave me a greater understanding of the operations of a business. As a group we faced many issues, some of which caused disputes and broke friendships, those problems developed my overall maturity and independence; it has aided me with improving my collaboration, communication and social skills. I found that the enterprise was a huge learning experience, something I would value and reflect upon for the rest of my life. Yes, it was time-consuming and caused a lot of stress; however, I would not trade my experiences for anything else.”

Nha Trang Do
Oasis, Marketing and Personnel Director

SEC 2021 - Quote 2

The power of the Saigon Enterprise Challenge in developing key transferable skills to complement the excellent academic outcomes of BIS students is emphasised by Dr Simon Finnegan;

“One of the most valuable aspects of the SEC, from a student perspective, is that it enables them to develop and demonstrate key skills related to the 4Cs (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity) that are highly valued by universities in terms of the decision-making for admissions. Additionally, the same skills and attributes are sought by employers in all sectors as the employment sector continues to focus on the value of transferable skills since the advent of the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0). 

The opportunity to demonstrate these soft skills in the tangible context of the competition, over its extended process, allows students to evidence these skills in application writing or interview situations. There are few comparative activities available within school that provide students with the chance to demonstrate how these skills combine and intersect, in addition to giving them the platform to showcase their aptitudes in those areas.”

Simon Finnegan
Senior College and University Guidance Counsellor

The Saigon Enterprise Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for students in Year 12 to start building a portfolio of evidence that one day they can present to potential employers with confidence. We were grateful to our panel of young business entrepreneurs for their fantastic feedback to the students on the night, and one of the judges provided their view on the challenge below: 

“All teams showcased an impressive level of creativity, business acumen and dedication to their chosen causes and business plans. Putting together a business plan and producing a product is very complex and the fact that they managed in a year with constant uncertainty and interruptions to business due to Covid is a testament to their drive. Exercises like these are very important to learn practical lessons and how to build a business from scratch. I wish I had the opportunity to do something like this when I was in school. Congratulations to all involved!”

Angelica Pothos
Brand Manager, The Reverie Saigon

The Saigon Enterprise Challenge provides an opportunity for students to really live their classroom learning and experience the theory in a real life situation. The benefit of this is summed up by Anna Champion, Head of Early Careers at Jardine Matheson:

“As an employer a great deal of our focus is on the future of work and the skills needed to survive. A quote that is central to all the discussions we have is by Alvin Toffler “The illiterate of the future are not those who can't read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. The work done by students on the Saigon Enterprise Challenge is one of the great opportunities to cement the learning they have experienced in the classroom, experiment with the concepts, discover and then relearn from the outcomes. Although credit will of course go to the final presentations I hope that the experience of all students involved will help them to build transferable skills which will aid their future success.”

Anna Champion
Head of Early Careers, Group Human Resources
Jardine Matheson Ltd 

SEC 2021 Winners

The Saigon Enterprise Challenge is about so much more than simply starting a business or designing a product. It is about building positive relationships with teammates, suppliers and customers. It is about being fully engaged and ‘lost in the flow.’ It is about being part of something which has meaning, contributing to and supporting local social enterprises. It is about accomplishing success, both big and small. It is about building the character strengths so valued in the world today; teamwork, creativity, curiosity, kindness, gratitude, perseverance and judgement to name but a few. And it is about experiencing any number of emotions, both positive and negative, and developing the resilience needed to bounce back and thrive and flourish. 

A huge well done to Carity, Phanes, Epilogue, Plant Box, Wudz: By Francis and Oasis for their hard work and dedication over the last seven months. All students went above and beyond what was expected and we know you have all learned some wonderful life lessons to take forward into the future. Congratulations! 

Mr Alexander & Mr Baker
Business & Economics Department