What’s the BIG Idea? Awards $20,450 to Rural Entrepreneurs

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$20,450 in cash prizes was awarded to ten inspiring entrepreneurs from across Westman at the fourth annual ‘What’s the BIG Idea?’ event last Thursday in Minnedosa.

The economic development offices in Minnedosa and Neepawa returned as partners to plan and host the event held in Minnedosa on October 18. The full day entrepreneurship event offers a packed agenda with guest speakers, networking, an entrepreneur trade-show, and the main event- the Dragon’s Den style pitch competition, where ten entrepreneurs from Minnedosa, Neepawa, and Gladstone competed for cash and prizes in 15 different categories.

The BIG winner of the day was Minnedosa’s Mlee Kingdon for her business Theradream Therapeutics; Mlee was awarded four of the 15 available awards totaling $1800 in cash prizes from Minnedosa Area CDC ($1000), RM of Minto Odanah ($500), RBC for the Best Pitch of the Day ($300) and an industrial lot from the Town of Minnedosa valued at $10,000. Located on Main Street in Minnedosa, Theradream Therapeutics manufactures and sells, mostly online, weighted therapy blankets to aid with sleep disorders, anxiety, and other ailments.

Elika Canete represented Smile Pinoy Foods, a partnership within Gladstone’s Filipino community which manufactures a variety of traditional Filipino foods, including spring rolls and Filipino hot dogs in a Gladstone-based facility and markets them to Manitoba’s growing Filipino community. Smile Pinoy Foods walked away with $1500 in prizes including a $1000 Marketing Package donated by Neepawa Banner & Press, Promo Time, and Provost Signs, and $500 for Best Overall Idea from Minnedosa Credit Union and Beautiful Plains Credit Union.

Neepawa’s Cherish Creations took home $1150 from NADCO ($1000) and Neepawa Lionelles ($150). Pitched by Eriza Pepino and modeled by Cherish, the business pitched a handmade costume and formalwear rental company. A second prize of $1000 from NADCO was awarded to Diana Cao of 2D Creations, a party decorating company, while two $500 prizes from the Town of Neepawa were awarded to Dragonfly Drone Photography, a high-tech aerial photography business pitched by Jamie Maddever, and Olga Boyko for made-to-measure bespoke custom clothing.

Magen Swift pitched Boho Soul Wellness, a business producing fermented and natural foods and was awarded $1000 from the Town of Minnedosa. Also promoting the wellness theme was Minnedosa’s Chelsea Henry, pitching Zenry Yoga, mobile yoga to serve Westman communities, and was awarded $1000 from Prairie Oasis.

A $500 award from Neepawa Chamber of Commerce went to Two Barns Antiques, owned by Lynne and Dennis Ranger who are looking to get back into the antiques market, while $500 from Minnedosa Chamber of Commerce went to Jeff Kitching of Lakeside Millwork for a woodworking shop offering custom furniture, handmade guitars, instructional classes, and open shop time. Both awards also come with a one-year membership to the local chamber of commerce.

The event would not have been complete without a series of speakers to set the tone for the day. Real Westman’s Michelle Budiwski gave an honest and straightforward talk about pivoting your business, being adaptable, failure, and success. Big Idea winners in 2015 and 2016, Marlies Soltys and Kim Burgess partnered together and used the book ‘What Do You Do With An Idea?” to tell the story about how Minnedosa’s Inspire Studio of Fine Art, and Satori Counselling have leveraged community and a common theme to grow as two distinct businesses, and also start a third business, Valley Paradise Retreats, together.

Lunch keynote was Farmery Brewery, owners and brothers Chris and Lawrence told the Farmery story and brought some of their newest brews to wash down lunch. The day was catered by Minnedosa’s newest hot-spot, Farmhouse 50, and owner Meaghan Cann spoke in the afternoon about finding worklife balance and the commitment, challenges, and benefits of being a full-time business owner. A video from 2017 BIG Idea winner Amy Spring talked about Fueled by Adventures first year in business in Neepawa.

The event was sponsored by the Minnedosa Area CDC, Town of Neepawa Economic Development, and World Trade Centre Winnipeg. Judges from Community Futures Westman, RBC, and the Aurora Project ensure a fair and unbiased pitch competition. All awards are generously donated by groups and organizations which believe in the value of small businesses and supporting community economic development.

What’s the BIG Idea was nominated as Economic Development Project of the Year in 2017 by the Economic Developers Association of Manitoba. Since the inaugural event in 2015, almost $45,000 has been awarded to support the launch and expansion of over 25 Westman businesses, in Minnedosa, Neepawa, Rapid City, Carberry, Eden, and Gladstone. Local Main Streets are populating with businesses who have pitched their BIG Ideas over the years, and the products are being brought to market locally, provincially, and nationally. The annual event is receiving attention across the country with other communities stimulating their own local economies by asking: What Is the BIG idea??

If you have questions about What’s the BIG Idea? or starting a business, please contact the Economic Development Officers in Minnedosa, Chantelle Parrott at 204-867-3885 edo@minnedosa.com or Neepawa, Marilyn Crewe at 204-476-7600 edo@wcgwave.ca