Young Kamloops entrepreneurs took home some cash and, more importantly, proof of concept in their budding businesses at last week’s Junior Dragons’ Den event.
Sixteen applicants from a pool of about 500 went into the den — the Brown House of Learning at Thompson Rivers University — to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.
Four emerged victorious in the three categories, each receiving cheques for $500.
Lara Turner and Landon Spencer from Robert L. Clemitson elementary in Barnhartvale finished first in the junior category for their automatic animal feeder, LTS Feeds. The senior category resulted in a tie between Rohkeya Diaou, Sarah Baughan and Alia Sandeman-Allen of Recycled Sounds and Kamloops School of the Arts students Abbey Seymour, Vivian Hill and Emily Waterman with their Clean Kitchen business.
Thompson Rivers University student Kenton Sanderson won in the university category for his painting business Quick Fix Painting.
“Initially, I was shocked and it still really hasn’t set in, but it’s getting easier to process,” Lara Turner said of winning the junior category.
The automatic animal feeder she and Landon Spencer presented to the judges was inspired by the Grade 6 students’ shared distaste for the chore of having to get up early in the morning to feed their hungry chickens, goats and rabbits.
“I was like oh, we actually have a really good invention that we could move forward, maybe we could get this in the stores,” Landon said.
The pair is now considering using their $500 grand prize to build a full-sized prototype.
The Grade 7 students behind Clean Kitchen make cutting boards, coasters and wooden spoons from reclaimed and recycled wood in an effort to reduce waste.
“We all like doing environmentally friendly things, so we wanted to help out a little bit more,” Emily Waterman said.
Competing against high school kids in their category was a bit intimidating, she said, but noted that feeling was soon replaced by jubilation.
“When they announced our name and we got the big cheque, it was really exciting and it was a great opportunity,” she said.
Emily said they want to put their share of the prize money toward the food-safe mineral oil they use to finish the wood products and buying tables at craft fairs and farmers’ markets.
Recycled Sounds is a natural speaker made from reclaimed wood that amplifies the sound of a smartphone.
Its creators have had previous success, having won the Ledcor Regional Company of the Year Award and being named JA Canada Company of the Year. They were also finalists last year at the JA Americas Company of the Year Competition in Lima, Peru.
Sarah Baughan said the group made a submission to Junior Dragons’ Den because they wanted to practise their business pitch and meet other business people in the community.
“The event was well organized and it was great to meet other like-minded people,” she said.
Next up for the entrepreneurs is to expand their business by finding new places to sell their product.
Kenton Sanderson’s painting business that won over the judges is heading into its second year and the entrepreneur is in the midst of trying to implement direct online bookings.
“I’ve seen similar industries do something fairly similar,” Kenton said, adding he believes the idea can also be successful in his industry.
He hopes to have a booking website and iPhone application operating next year. If it’s successful locally, Kenton would like to expand it around B.C.
“I was one of the last pitchers in the competition, so I had to wait one of the longest, so that was a bit of butterflies in the stomach,” he said.
“But it was definitely a good evening.”
Winning his category gave Kenton a sense of confidence in his business.
“Just to win and get that validation that I’m on the right track is going to give me a boost,” he said.
The student business competition hosted by Community Futures is modelled after the CBC show Dragons’ Den, offering entrepreneurs from Grade 5 to university the opportunity to create their own summer job or business, or expand an existing one.
Students are required to submit a business concept paper for their business idea, which speaks to all the pertinent details of the business/idea and its start-up costs, capped with a letter explaining why the applicant should be chosen to compete in the event.