Students of Penticton and Summerland showcased their entrepreneurial ideas at the Ramada on Tuesday for the Windward Software Young Entrepreneurs Dragons’ Den Competition.
The three-month event includes three rounds of judging by local dragons and sponsors on the development of the product of the students’ choice, financial feasibility and a marketing plan in hopes of successfully progressing in the competition to win a cash prize of $2,500 in the high school division and $700 in the middle school division, which they can use to launch their business.
The competition is operated in a three way partnership that joins Okanagan College Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) with School District 67 and Penticton Economic Development Services.
The competition started six years ago when SIFE Okanagan decided to revamp a similar competition that was running in Kelowna and modify it into a Dragons’ Den-style competition. This program now operates on four of the Okanagan College campuses: Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton and Salmon Arm.
In order to present and be judged for all three tasks, the students have time in between to be mentored by students from SIFE who are available to the students throughout the event. The process from start to finish takes six months, which includes recruitment, task orientations, the final luncheon and the regional competition.
Meika Smith, a business student at Okanagan College and vice-president of SIFE Okanagan, noted on her time as a mentor: “I assisted the project manager for the Penticton campus in mentoring the students with their ideas and helping them become ‘pitch ready’ before they presented their product or service to the dragons,” said Smith. “The competition is important because it gives students the skills, confidence and understanding of business and entrepreneurship.”
Summerland Middle School Grade 6 student Cameron Soo said his partner Colton Rodd brought him into the program when Rodd got the idea to use bouncy balls he had created on a road trip to Alberta, which are made solely out of balloons and water. Rodd and Soo ended up winning first place in the middle school category and plan on using the $500 they won towards expanding their business.
“I learned how to make a business thrive and then keep it that way,” said Soo. “It was a great competition. The other competitors made good products too, ones that I would use.”
Rose Harries and Poonam Chahal placed first in the high school category with their custom T-shirt business.
“I’ll be making a lot more shirts and probably take it up as a summer job when school ends,” said Harries, who has been painting and screen printing shirts as a hobby since ninth grade.