Fashionista Marcie LeBlanc took home the $10,000 award in the Best Growth Opportunity category in the 2017 ThriveNorth Business Challenge.
Since February, young entrepreneurs have been pitching their business ideas to judges for the top prize. On Thursday night, May 18, the finalists took to the stage at the convention centre in Prince Rupert and pitched their concepts to an audience who voted their favourite — a $5,000 bonus.
Earlier that day, finalists had pitched to judges for the top prize of $10,000.
Think Dragon’s Den of the North, these finalists have been coached on how to give a sharp delivery with well-defined business plans.
“Winning today is more than overwhelming. It’s hard to get up there and sell yourself. You know that you get into business because you do what you love to do but it’s really hard to express that sometimes and this whole process has been amazing for the networking with the other businesses and just getting to know that thee’s so much support out there,” LeBlanc said.
With more than 20 years of design and sewing experince LeBlanc opened LeBLANC Boutique in November 2015, after she moved back to her hometown on the North Coast. She intends to use the $10,000 to expand her business from Cow Bay to surrounding northern communities, starting in Terrace, Kitimat and Smithers. She also plans to launch an online store to have her products available at all times.
“I want to get the local artists that I incorporate in my business to the other communities,” she said.
This is the third ThriveNorth Business Challenge. Last year’s event took place in Terrace, and one Prince Rupert business owner, Andrea Pollock took the $2,500 runner-up award in Best New Social Enterprise for her Island Sugar business.
There were three finalists from Prince Rupert, including Meghann Patterson and Reid Skelton-Morven, who both have exterior cleaning businesses but in separate Best New Business age categories. For competitors who didn’t win the top prize, they were surprised with a $1,000 award for making it to the finals.
“This is going to get my business started so I can get some safety equipment, ladders and scaffolds,” said Patterson, who recently launched Sirius Exteriors. “Through the exposure of the competition I have picked up more business.”
Terrace cleaned up the rest of the awards. ThriveNorth winners were Kevin Febril for Wandering Bear, his catering service, and Bryan Last and Aleksa Havelaar for White Goat Coffee, and the audience award went to Andréa Harmel and Kory Yamashita for Butter Hair Salon.
ThriveNorth is managed by Futurpreneur Canada and support came from Prince Rupert LNG, the Government of British Columbia and Northern Savings Credit Union.