A northwest competition to encourage and help finance younger entrepreneurs is back for its third year.
As in its first two years, the business challenge, organized by ThriveNorth, offers a chance for young entrepreneurs to make business pitches before a panel of judges with the prospect of taking home top prizes of $10,000.
This year, the pitch competition will be held in Prince Rupert and there’s now an option to vote online.
Another change includes a best new business category (formerly best new social enterprise) for any business that has yet to launch and is open to people between the ages of 18 and 28 and a similar category for people between the ages of 29 and 39.
Rupert resident, Andrea Pollock, was the runner up in the best new social enterprise category last year, and she took home $2,500 toward her business Island Sugar — an old fashioned cart that she peddles around the city in the summer filled with frozen treats and sweets.
“My business started as a hobby. But doing the workshops, getting up there and pitching makes you think big about what it can be. That was a great experience,” Pollock said, who benefited from the extra marketing promotion and the free programs to help her develop her business model.
Pollock made the pitch on stage in Terrace in May last year, and was the only person from Prince Rupert to make the cut.
She initially intended to use the money to purchase a new motor for her ice cream tricycle but there was an issue with the manufacturer, so after checking with ThriveNorth, she used the money to expand the business into the winter season.
The money was used to purchase a cotton candy machine and she paid for retail space in e’Klektic Trading on Third Avenue West.
“I ditched one idea and went into something else for the business,” she said.
This year there won’t be any runners up, only prizes for the winners, elevating the stakes.
There is also a best growth category for a business now operating and looking to expand that’s open to people between the ages of 18 and 29.
The first category was divided into two age groups to recognize different levels of experience and knowledge based on age, said Megan te Boekvorst from Futurpreneur Canada, a national business development organization that’s responsible for ThriveNorth.
The top prize in each category, as chosen by a panel of judges is $10,000, while $5,000 will be awarded in each category as chosen by the audience during a final event that takes place May 18 in Prince Rupert.
Aside from the competition, ThriveNorth also organizes workshops where young entrepreneurs can learn from those who have established businesses.
To date, ThriveNorth has provided an estimated $700,000 in the region which includes money for 49 young entrepreneurs resulting in 79 jobs, indicates information provided by Futurpreneur Canada.
The deadline to enter this year’s competition is March 31.
Applicants receive online training to develop their sales pitches and there is a two-day semifinal event in both Terrace and in Prince Rupert leading to the final Prince Rupert event.
ThriveNorth had its start in late 2014 and was intended as a five-year program worth $5 million to be provided by BG Group, the original promoter of the Prince Rupert LNG project.
But with BG Group’s new owner, Shell, now having canceled the LNG project, the continued existence of ThriveNorth is undecided.
“We have a commitment to the end of 2017 but we cannot confirm anything after that,” said te Boekvorst.
She did say Futurpreneur itself is committed to continuing to help young businesspeople in the region.
With files from Rod Link