Four rising entrepreneurs cleaned up at Thursday's "What's the Big Idea?" entrepreneurship event in Neepawa, collectively claiming nearly $7,000 in cash and prizes.
The event, originated last year through a partnership between Minnedosa and Neepawa saw growth all around this year with more jurisdictions signing on as sponsors, increased attendance from outside the region and more pitches than last year's debut. In all seven pitches were heard by the capacity crowd at ArtsForward, with four strong pitches sweeping nine award categories to claim prize money for their efforts.
The big winner of the day was Tim Wiebe, of Eden's Avion Harvest production plant. The small pulse marketing outfit, which just opened its doors under the current ownership in January has seen an incredible debut year, securing deals for market placement of their product in 23 Co-op stores and recently signed a deal with Save-On Foods out west for distribution into those major supermarkets in Alberta and British Columbia. Laying claim to the awards sponsors by NADCO, the R.M. of Rosedale and the Neepawa Chamber of Commerce, Wiebe emerged from the event with $4,300 toward the continued growth of their operation.
The name called most at award time, though was Minnedosa's Kim Burgess. Burgess, who has aspirations to open an Art Therapy practice in Minnedosa, delivered a powerful and compelling pitch which saw her name called in four prize categories. She took home $1300 in awards sponsored by the R.M. of Minto-Odanah, the Minnedosa Chamber of Commerce and a voucher for digital marketing services courtesy of Trend Lab Marketing. Burgess' pitch was also awarded the RBC "Pitch of the Day".
Kelly Spurway, via a concise and punchy pitch by Lianne Christie, secured a $1,000 award for the Queens Eatery in Rapid City. The new operator of the community restaurant will apply the prize money toward upgrades to the commercial kitchen equipment to better serve patrons to the historic dining spot.
The youngest presenter of the day was Neepawa's Kennedy Baker. The enterprising sixteen year old, whose artistic skills as a creator of hand-painted footwear has already secured the attention of the Winnipeg Jets NHL franchise after designing a pair of shoes featuring the team's logo. While only developed as a prototype, Baker has received a letter to request a meeting with the team's marketing department about carrying her designs in the official Jets store as well as an offer to connect her to other NHL franchises and CFL teams. Baker was awarded the Minnedosa Credit Union / Beautiful Plains Credit Union "Best Overall Idea" award, valued at $300.
In addition to the pitches presented, attendees were treated to a line up of industry and small business speakers which kept the packed house riveted throughout the day. The event was attended by patrons not only from Minnedosa and Neepawa, but also saw guests from as far away as Kipling, Saskatchewan attending to learn more about the event and to possibly adopt a similar approach in their own community. The 2015 debut saw the opening of three new businesses and the expansion of a fourth, resulting in increased interest from private and public business agencies this year including the Business Development Bank of Canada and World Trade Centre Winnipeg.