Inventors, environmental activists, number crunchers and marketing genius’s impressed judges at the Windward Software Young Entrepreneurs Dragons’ Den Competition.
Running off the success of last year’s competition, the program has expanded to include Summerland and middle school students.
“There are a lot of great benefits for the students because they get a lot of business knowledge, enough that they can go and get started, for example as a summer business,” said Brea Retzlaff, a Okanagan College business student that is from Summerland and acts as a mentor to the high school students through the SIFE program. “All you have to do is look at the success of last year’s winner from Pen High. She is now a first-year business student and earned about $17,000 in revenue over the summer with the business she pitched in the competition.”
Students are judged by local dragons on a business idea over a span of three months. The winning team of high school students will receive $2,500 that they can use to launch their new business. Middle school students will receive a $500 cash prize for first place. The competition is being operated in a three-way partnership that joins Okanagan College SIFE students with School District 67 and Penticton Economic Development Services.
Larissa Russell won last year with her pitch of a beachside business called the Henna Hut. Taran Ungaro and Sagar Sahota, Princess Margaret students, have created a business called PSI Industries, and as returning competitors they are hoping to take the title this year. Ungaro has developed a paintball device that he believes will improve the sport drastically.
“If I can compare it to what most people know, cars, this is basically a performance upgrade like a nice set of tires, new headlights or NOS to your paintball gun. It increases your accuracy and consistency, so instead of having your shots fly everywhere they will be going in a straight line,” said Ungaro, who plans on taking mechanical engineering at post-secondary school.
Sahota said the experience of pitching their idea has helped the pair out immensely. They have taken what they learned last year and improved how they handle the business end of it.
The pair won $500 for the BDC Incubator grant award and $100 for placing second for the Cherry Lane award last year. The money went to show their idea at a paintball competition in Calgary.
“We came so close and we feel like we are more organized, are getting our point across to the judges and we are more aware of our project. This is a must if you are doing business after high school. We gain something out of it each session. You will come across people that will criticize you in the business world and others you will have to impress and this really helps us deal with that,” said Sahota.
The students have one more task to complete in marketing and media before the final banquet. Ungaro feels PSI Industries has a good chance to win the competition this year and maybe even go further.
“We have got a lot of good feedback from people. And if we win, we will go further into development and maybe a patent,” said Ungaro. “As soon as we get a patent we can start making money off this.”
Other ideas put forward by students include a green business that runs on a subscription to help citizens curb their carbon waste, a cork-like device used as a wine-stopper, a crepe making business to be set up at the beach, a replacement for the traditional ice cream cone using cookie dough, a spa and a stress ball made out of recycled bottle caps.
Local businesses supporting the event include Windward Software, ORIC, McKitrick Byrnes Coldwell Banker, Cary Schneirderat Law Corp., JCI Penticton, Penticton Chamber of Commerce and BMO Penticton.
The winner will be announced at the final banquet on May 17 at the Ramada from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. sponsored by Rick and Yasmine Thorpe and Friends and the CFDC Okanagan Similkameen.
The banquet and awards presentations will also feature a trade show exhibiting the students’ entrepreneurial business ideas.