Student Entrepreneurs Get 'Dragon' Cash
About 40 students from the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business stepped into a mini Dragon's Den April 16, 2009, when their business plans were judged in the second annual TD Canada Trust Small Business Challenge. To add a bit of authenticity, Dragon's Den winner Marc Forrat was on hand to tell them how he got at least the promise of money out of CBC's Dragons for his chocolatier business.
Congratulating the top prize winners! Left to right: Fanshawe President Howard Rundle; faculty member Tanya Wickett; winning team members Katie Romitz, Devon Campbell and Michael Vanni; Christian Connolly, Area Manager Business Banking, Western Ontario Region, TD Canada Trust.
Of the 20 teams in the final phase of the competition, three came away with cash prizes. Their business concepts were judged for viability, marketability and financial analysis. First prize, $400, went to a plan called Greener Pastures drafted by Devon Campbell, Katie Romitz and Michael Vanni. Second prize, for Keep It Fresh, was $250 awarded to Alaedin Mohamed. Third prize, $150, went to the team of Andy Lord, Mike King and Ariel Baskoro for their plan, Eco+Blinds.
Mary Pierce, acting chair of the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, said more than 300 students participated in the competition that is mentored by TD Canada Trust small business advisors.
"It's just a great hands-on experience for students," Pierce said. "It's an opportunity to interact with real business people and test out the theory of their business plans. It takes the level of the professional competency of students to another level."
Christian Connolly, area manager, TD Business Banking, said eight advisors worked with the students this year. He said the competition allows the company to extend itself to future entrepreneurs.
"We're spreading our footprint at the grassroots level," he said, "so that future entrepreneurs are going to know we have small business advisors that are there to help them."
"It's not just to give them money but to quarterback and act as a partner and a coach through their business cycle right from when they start through the life of their business," Connolly said.
While Fanshawe College is the first and only college in the TD Canada Trust Small Business Challenge, that could change next year. Representatives from Conestoga and Niagara Colleges attended this year's ceremony to learn more about the competition.
"There are going to be further discussions about a trial expansion next year," Pierce said, adding there is a possibility the challenge will be extended to all Ontario colleges in the future.
Future meetings to discuss whether to extend the competition to Conestoga and Niagara colleges in 2010 are planned. "It has not been decided, but we are in discussions," Pierce said, adding that Canada Trust and the three colleges will all be at the table.