Who says all the great business ideas are already taken? A group of Swiss high school students has come up with something completely different — an at-home condom subscription service. Ironically called “No Shame,” the kids offer “discreet and free shipping of condoms to your home,” according to the No Shame web site. “Not even the postman sees what you get.”
With a slick web site and a partnership with a large German condom maker, No Shame is just one of the interesting business ideas that will be on display in Israel this week, as Tel Aviv hosts the annual Junior Achievement/Young Entrepreneurs Europe contest, sponsored by Junior Achievement Worldwide. This is the first time Israel has been chosen to sponsor the event, which this year will feature 30 teams of teens from all over Europe, showing off their business and marketing savvy.
The Israeli contest was sponsored by the Israeli Young Entrepreneurs association, which “helps young entrepreneurs learn from the experience of members of the business community, opening up for them a window that lets them use their creativity to develop an innovative idea,” said Ella Galil, chairperson of the Israeli group. Some 250 groups from around the country participated in regional competitions, with the regional winners competing against each other for the honor of representing Israel in the JA-YE finals this week.
Participants in the project are required to set up a start-up business, either a manufacturing or service one, with all the relevant features: Product/service design and planning, business and marketing plans and units, accounting, personnel, vision statements, fundraising, market surveys, etc. The companies, made up of high school students who participated in Israeli Young Entrepreneurs clubs in local community centers, are judged on the quality and effectiveness of their efforts.
Students are mentored by top tech and business executives, who help them develop their idea into an actual product or service, with the kids picking up valuable business skills along the way. More than 85,000 students have participated in the program over the course of its 23-year history in Israel.
Two Israeli teams made it to this year’s finals: Afak, which developed a notebook that allows mixing and matching of notebook pages, letting students attach notes they took on random pieces of paper to the “professional” notebook they forgot at home that day, and M&S KIT, which developed a modern design on the napkin and silverware holder for restaurants and caterers to sell advertising space on.
Other interesting ideas include a mini-dishwasher that can be attached to a sink with a hose, for student-sized dorm rooms (from a Danish team), a team from Botswana that recycles jeans to make bags, and an electro-magnetic ID card that uses radio waves that its Portuguese makers say “will replace ID cards of all kinds.”
The contest already has one sure winner, said Galil. “It’s an honor for Israel to be hosting this event, especially when it is being attacked and threatened from all sides,” especially from the BDS crowd, which seeks to choke off Israel’s business success. “This event will allow students from Israel to participate in an international-level event, meeting business colleagues from 30 countries. It will also help expose Israel to new groups who will hopefully return to visit,” she added.
So is the “No Shame” condom project a likely winner? As head of Israel Junior Achievement, she, of course, believes that the home team has what it takes to win. “Israeli teams are usually among the top performers in this contest, and I believe that we have a good chance of winning this year.” But regardless of who wins, Galil said, “I am sure that many of those participating in the contest will be the business leaders of the future.”