The finalists of the MNO Generation Innovation Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge: (left to right) Kyle Burton, Nicholas Delbaere-Sawchuk, Robert Bates and David Bates.
In November 2011, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation and its sponsors launched a new and exciting program for Métis youth in Ontario! Generation Innovation: Métis Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge is a project designed to provide Métis youth (aged 13-29) with confidence, motivation and, above all, concrete business skills and mentoring. ”Métis are among the fastest-growing and youngest demographics in Canada,” explained MNO President Gary Lipinski, “Generation Innovation represents one of the exciting ways the MNO is encouraging our young citizens to build on the Métis tradition of entrepreneurship.”
Modeled after the popular CBC TV program, The Dragon’s Den, Métis youth across Ontario were invited to submit applications describing their business or innovation, in order to receive business training and compete for prizes in a Dragon’s Den style competition where they would pitch their business ideas to business leaders who would act as judges. Fourteen business applications were received from young Métis people to participate in the Generation Innovation Challenge with three selected to compete in the final for cash and prizes for the best pitch.
In addition to the chance to compete, the finalists also received on line business training from the GoForth Institute, attended pitch training with Dr. Leslie Roberts and were coached by Ryan Foley, who was a contestant on the Dragon’s Den and who got a deal with Brett Wilson. As well, the finalists attended the Métis Business Forum in Toronto on March 30. On March 31, the competition took place and was recorded at a television production studio in Toronto. The program will be posted on the MNO website, used by the provincial and federal governments to promote Métis youth entrepreneurship and will be promoted to TV stations to gain support for the Generation Innovation Challenge and Métis youth entrepreneurship.
The young people made their pitches to a panel of four judges, each who are well-respected business leaders. They were: Lisa Diamond, President and CEO of Youth in Motion; Chinyere Eni, National Director of Public Sector and Aboriginal Markets for the Royal Bank of Canada; Aby Alameddine, Co-founder of Core Marketing Strategies; and Peter Smith, President of the Commerce Assessment Group. “The entrepreneurial spirit has long been part of the Métis culture,” explained Lisa Diamond, “from the early days of fur trading to present day. Nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit among these youth will help them create something valuable for their community while developing their passion.” “Small business is a driving force in Canada’s economic success and Metis people are central to understanding what Canada is, and what Canada can be. Congratulations to an inspiring group of young entrepreneurs taking on the challenge of building our future,” said Chinyere Eni. “As a judge,” stated Aby Alameddine, “I was extremely heartened to see the talent, passion and enthusiasm of these young contestants first-hand. I’m confident they will make great contributions.”
The contestants were: Nicolas Delbaere-Sawchuk, a member of the Métis Fiddler Quartet, whose pitch promoted a Métis Music Ensemble; Robert and David Bates, pitched their business “Bates Brothers Magic”; and Kyle Burton, of Burton Photography, a talented photographer who wants to build his talents into a business. Although all the contestants made strong pitches and showed great promise, ultimately, the judges selected Nicholas as the first place winner, Robert and David won second place, and Kyle won third place. After the success of the Generation Innovation Challenge this year, plans are already starting for another competition in 2013!