Business Students Explore Entrepreneurial Possibilities

January 10, 2022
Business Program Tradeshow

Before a panel of regional judges, future business leaders fine-tuned their learning with the Business Plan Tradeshow Competition that materialized their research and presentation skills. Beyond the marks, students transformed academia into real-world experience.

The fall semester climax for students in the Selkirk College School of Business saw learners rise to the challenge with exciting small business concepts.

Held over Zoom in early-December and facilitated by Entrepreneurship course instructor Cibylla Rakestraw, the Business Plan Tradeshow Competition functions as a key piece of each student’s capstone project. Although the showcase is crucial to final marks, the project presentation 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 transform it into a plan that could be used in the real world. Students can 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 groups of two, students in the Post-Graduate Business Management Program spend their semester creating a business plan that can be implemented into the real world. The class is divided into two sections and the top-four plans of each section are selected to compete before a panel of four judges. Business presentations are 15 minutes long, followed by a 10-minute judge-led question and answer period. Students who don’t make the top-four in their section attend the contest to give feedback and constructive criticism to their peers. 

Judges include local stakeholders and businesspeople that featured representatives from the 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. Judges also offered comments and suggestions on how students could enrich or enhance their business plan.  

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

Judges asked tough questions and allowed students to expand on their presentations.  

“The questions asked by the judges pinpointed inconsistencies and provided insight towards my business,” said Milan Bhadani, second-place winner of competition one.  

Judges asked questions like: “what will the labour market look like when you are searching for employees?” and “what role will social media play in marketing your business?” 

Real World, Career Ready Opportunities

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

“During my journey here at Selkirk, I have learned a lot and have increased my skillsets,” said Yeshika, co-winner of the second competition. “With the showcase competition, I gained deeper insights into how to turn theoretical knowledge into reality.” 

Every business plan was unique at this year’s contest and was based on a rich diversity of interests. Yvone Azarcon and Gaganjeet Singh looked to create a high-tech gaming arcade in downtown Castlegar called Virtulo. The arcade would feature virtual reality and artificial intelligence-based gaming that is often inaccessible to the general gaming community.  

An Tang’s Behold Mobile Beauty Services looked to market to seniors who would like to have professional estheticians come to their home, opposed to traveling to a traditional brick-and-mortar spa. 

Student business plans also looked to address changes to consumer markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tinu Varghese Aprem and Amith Joy’s Swaggin’ Pet functions to supplement the “pandemic pet boom” by supplying a one-stop-shop for pet grooming and training in Nelson. Local market research was instrumental in convincing judges of the feasibility of each business. 

Students placing first in their section won $75 each and runners-up won $50 each. A variety of prizes from Kootenay Savings Credit Union were also raffled off.  

Sheyla Laplant placed first in contest one with her business plan Rent-A-Local—a tour-guide agency that focuses on creating unique tours of the West Kootenay’s geography. Second place was awarded to Milan Bhadani for his business plan HandleBar—a bike rental and coffeeshop hybrid that functions as a hangout location for Castlegar youth. 

The winners of the second contest found themselves at a tie for first place, despite their very different business plans. Sanjna Sharma and Yeshika’s YS Bookkeeping Services impressed judges with its market feasibility, due to Castlegar's shortage of bookkeepers. Co-winner Laura Mutsaer’s Method Electric functions to provide mobile electrical services to motion picture production companies.  

The Business Plan Tradeshow Competition brings students and community members together. The competition functions to offer an outlet for students to see how their studies can manifest outside of academia. 

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Milan Bhadani’s HandleBar is suggested to be located at Castlegar’s Millennium Park and constructed out of two sea cans. The business would supplement the lack of a place to rent bikes in the area. This 3D rendering was created by Bhadani for his presentation.

One of the top presentations in the competition, School of Business student An Tang’s Behold Mobile Beauty Services looked to market to seniors who would like to have professional estheticians come to their home, opposed to traveling to a traditional brick-and-mortar spa.