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"I furthered my knowledge about business and social entrepreneurship".

Sometimes, life’s most challenging experiences can turn out to be life’s most rewarding ones.

During her commerce degree, Jennifer Renelle participated in Deakin’s Bowater Social Enterprise Competition (BSEC) and says that while competition pushed her well out of her comfort zone, it also ended up being one of the best experiences of her undergraduate studies.

The BSEC challenge sees competing teams of student create business plans for enterprises that can educate or contribute towards alleviating social issues such as poverty, conservation and social issues.

By combining business ventures with social entrepreneurship, it inspires students to expand their thinking and look for innovative ways to merge the two streams.

‘The competition involved working in a team of two and developing a theoretical social enterprise and business plan,’ explains Jennifer.

‘We were given the opportunity of meeting social entrepreneurs across Australia and the world who told us of their journey in building their social enterprise. The top three teams, which I was a part of, then had to develop a presentation and present their business model to the Deakin faculty, and students.’

With an impressive enterprise proposal, Jennifer (and her team partner) went on to take out first place in the competition and says the challenge was an outstanding learning experience.

‘I enjoyed this the most because it was a great experience where I furthered my knowledge about business and social entrepreneurship – winning first place made that journey even better!’

But the BSEC wasn’t the only rewarding program Jennifer undertook during her degree. She also participated in Deakin’s Whitehorse Tertiary Business Skills Program which facilitates an internship within the Whitehorse municipality – a step that has now led her to a fulltime career.

‘One of my majors was marketing and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do an internship with Home HQ a homewares’ retail centre (owned by Arkadia Property Services) located in Nunawading,’ she says.

Happily, the internship didn’t consist simply of basic administrative tasks but gave Jennifer valuable opportunities to delve into the real world skills of business and marketing.

‘I learnt and participated in marketing campaigns, retail catalogues and advertising, sponsorship events, and market research. The internship enabled me to learn so much by gaining hands-on experience,’ she recalls.

After graduation, Jennifer was offered a fulltime position with the Home HQ centre where she is now an assistant centre manager.

She considers herself very fortunate to be working in a role that offers her the opportunity to gain a broad spectrum of retail business skills.

‘I’m not confined to one particular field … so far it’s been a great learning experience and I’m excited to see where this will lead me. The commerce degree gave me a strong understanding of all the components that typically make up a business and I think that sort of knowledge is invaluable for your career.’