Selkirk College business students explore entrepreneurial possibilities

The highlight of the fall semester for students at Selkirk College School of Business saw learners challenged with exciting small business concepts.

Hosted on Zoom in early December and hosted by Entrepreneurship Course Instructor Cibylla Rakestraw, the Business Plan Tradeshow competition works as a key part of each student’s capstone project. Although the showcase is crucial for final grades, the presentation of the project is beneficial beyond academia.

My goal with the showcase event is to help students think like entrepreneurs,” says Rakestraw. “I help them take an idea and turn it into a plan that could be used in the real world. Students may be uncomfortable when they start the entrepreneurship course, however, it helps students grow into a place where they can create a business plan and say, “I can really do this.

Individually or in pairs, students in the postgraduate business management program spend their semester creating a business plan that can be implemented in the real world. The class is divided into two sections and the top four plans from each section are selected to compete in front of a panel of four judges. Sales pitches are 15 minutes long, followed by a 10-minute judge-led question and answer period. Students who do not place in the top four in their section enter the competition to give feedback and constructive criticism to their peers.

The judges include local stakeholders and business people who included representatives from Kootenay Savings Credit Union (Diane Sirois), Community Futures (Don McColloch), CIBC (Gail Shaw), Castlegar Chamber of Commerce (Tammy Verigin-Burk), Trail Chamber of Commerce (Erika Krest) and TD Financial (Joanne McQuarry).

Judges evaluate all aspects of student business plans, such as market feasibility, financial planning, marketing and promotions, pricing, and industry competition. The judges also offered comments and suggestions on how the students could enrich or improve their business plan.

Judges are real people in real jobs who deal with entrepreneurs – they see the best and the worst that can happen to businesses,” says eight-time judge Tammy Verigin-Burk. “Each year I judge, it seems people offer even more in-depth feedback.”

The judges asked difficult questions and allowed the students to develop their presentations.

The questions posed by the judges highlighted inconsistencies and provided insight into my business,” said Milan Bhadani, second winner of the first contest.

The judges asked questions such as: “what will the job market look like when you are looking for employees?” and “What role will social media play in marketing your business?”

Although students may or may not pursue their business idea beyond the competition, the planning process turned academic theory into something practical.

During my journey here in Selkirk, I learned a lot and improved my skills,” said Yeshika, co-winner of the second competition. “Thanks to the showcase competition, I gained deeper knowledge on how to turn theoretical knowledge into reality.”

Each business plan was unique to this year’s competition and was based on a rich diversity of interests. Yvone Azarcon and Gaganjeet Singh sought to create a high-tech games arcade in downtown Castlegar called Virtulo. The arcade would feature virtual reality and AI-based games that are often inaccessible to the general gaming community.

An Tang’s Behold Mobile Beauty Services sought to target seniors who would like professional beauticians to come to their homes, rather than visiting a traditional brick-and-mortar spa.

The students’ business plans also sought to address changes in consumer markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tinu Varghese Aprem and Amith Joy’s Swaggin’ Pet are operating to supplement the “pandemic pet boom” by providing a one-stop-shop for pet grooming and training in Nelson. Local market research helped convince the judges of the feasibility of each business.

The first-placed students in their section won $75 each and the runners-up won $50 each. Various Kootenay Savings and Credit Union prizes were also raffled off.

Sheyla Laplant placed first in the first competition with her business plan Rent-A-Local, a tour guide agency that focuses on creating unique tours of the West Kootenay geography. Second place went to Milan Bhadani for his HandleBar business plan, a bike rental and coffeeshop hybrid that functions as a hangout for young people in Castlegar.

The winners of the second contest tied for first place, despite their very different business plans. Sanjna Sharma and Yeshika’s YS Bookkeeping Services impressed the judges with its marketability, due to the shortage of bookkeepers in Castlegar. Co-winner Laura Mutsaer’s Method Electric works to provide mobile electrical services to film production companies.

The Business Plan Tradeshow competition brings together students and members of the community. The function of the competition is to provide students with an outlet to see how their studies can manifest outside of academia.

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