Indigenous youth entrepreneurs pitch business ideas in provincial competition
- Fraser Needham | March 01, 2016
Young Indigenous entrepreneurs were busy pitching their business plans in Saskatoon on February 27.
It was all part of the Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge put on by PotashCorp and Enactus University of Saskatchewan.
A total of six entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to panel of judges, local Aboriginal entrepreneurs, sponsors and U of S faculty.
PotashCorp awards a total of $10,000 in start up capital to the top three finishers with $6,500 going to first place, $3,000 to second and $500 to third.
Helen Oro of Helen Oro Designs took the top prize at this year’s Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge.
Helen Oro Designs is an Indigenous fashion design start-up company, which currently features traditional beaded sunglasses and branded t-shirts among its products.
The company seeks to create awareness of Indigenous culture in a respectful way and a portion of its profits are given back to the local community through charitable donations.
Janelle Pewapsconias of Neeched Up Games took second place.
Neeched Up Games seeks to share Indigenous culture and education through a combination of Aboriginal themed card and board games that incorporate humour.
Josephine Awasis of Pawata Designs was awarded third prize.
Pawata Designs is an apparel and beaded accessory line that focuses on Cree culture, healthy lifestyles and keeping Cree syllabics alive.
All designs and beadwork are hand made by-products from locally owned businesses.
Hannah Tootoosis and Victor Carter were also given certificates as part of the Young Innovator Awards.
Dani Nichols is the project leader for the Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge.
She says there are a number of things they look for in terms of selecting the six finalists and those that win the top three prizes.
“We look for someone who has put a lot of time, dedication and passion into their business – ideas that are really plausible, that they are going to make happen,” Nichols says. “We are looking for people that are going to help the community and just basically projects that people are really passionate about, they have put a lot of time into them and that they give a great pitch.”
Nichols adds often the only obstacle standing in the way of a great business idea becoming a reality is a lack of seed money.
“The start-up capital is very helpful for these young entrepreneurs,” she says. “Many of them are just starting out and they don’t have any start-up capital, so PotashCorp’s donation is going to help them get their feet off the ground completely. It’s a really vital part of this competition, it helps them turn their ideas into reality.”
Enactus University of Saskatchewan is a student run, not-for-profit organization that creates outreach programs to address social, economic and environmental issues within the community.
The U of S chapter is part of an international organization, which includes 1,600 university campuses in 36 countries.
Enactus offers students the opportunity to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills by practicing and teaching the principles of free enterprise.
The Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge is open to Indigenous people 16-35.
Past winners include Kendall Netmaker of Neechie Gear and Heather Abbey of Shopindig.ca.