For the second year in a row, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation and other sponsors held the Generation Innovation: Métis Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge from March 16-17, 2013. Modeled after the popular CBC TV program Dragon’s Den, the Generation Innovation Challenge is a project designed to provide Métis youth (aged 13-29) with confidence, motivation and, above all, concrete business skills and mentoring. Also for the second year, the challenge was recorded and edited into a fast-paced and exciting video that you can view here.
Métis youth from 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 a panel of judges. Deanna Parker, a recreation therapist from Dryden, was awarded first place. Parker pitched an idea for a Sioux Lookout Aquatic Rehabilitation Centre that she hopes to start in the “Hub of the North” where she can practice aquatic therapy. She hopes to expand across the region in the next 10 years.
“The experience was amazing,” said Parker, who won a $1000 cash prize, a new laptop computer and a printer. “I felt like a movie star! I was very surprised at the amount of work that goes into one show.” From the applications received, seven Métis youth were chosen to receive online training from the GoForth institute as well as face to face business and pitch training from Peter Smith, President of the Commerce Assessment Group. Andre Laurin, President of Ocean Transportation Services Freight Forwarding Inc. provided the trainees practical business advice.
The candidates also had the opportunity to receive pitch and business advice from Ryan Foley, President of NuvoCare Health Sciences Inc. and past contestant on CBC’s Dragon’s Den. Based on the business plans of the seven trainees, three finalists were chosen to pitch to the judges in studio. The 2013 judges were Chinyere Eni, National Director, Aboriginal and Public Sector Markets at RBC; Peter Smith, President Commerce Assessment Group; Larry Mah, Director of Programs at Youth in Motion; and Paul Ungerman, Manager of Government Affairs at Union Gas.
Contestant Renée Michaud, a Liaison Officer with the University of Ottawa, came in second place with an idea for a mobile restaurant (food truck) serving Aboriginal cuisine cooked over a wood fire. Taylor Hari, a Ph.D. Candidate from the University of Ottawa, placed third with a pitch for an exclusive sock design company that manufactures with an emphasis on quality material and fit. The Generation Innovation project stimulated the entrepreneurial spirit in its participants while providing them with confidence, motivation and, above all, concrete business skills and mentoring.