Martin Paris dared to hope his business idea would be chosen as one of the top three winners in the Enterprize Challenge. He moved from his native England to Vernon five years ago, and while he’s held jobs in construction, his love is in the kitchen, namely potatoes.
Back in Coventry, UK, his family once owned a shop like the one he plans to open here—Jolly Good Spudz—in which patrons walk alongside a glass counter, selecting delicious locally-inspired toppings like pulled pork for their baked potato.
“I just thought I’d give it a try,” said Paris, who, for the time demands, nearly pulled out of the intensive, eight-week long competition, in which participants make presentations to judges and receive mentoring as they prepare to prove their financial viability and marketing plans.
But last Thursday, as passersby at the trade show and awards event held in the Okanagan College cafeteria swallowed his pork-laden spudz, nodded as they chewed and said, ‘Wow,’ he knew he’d been right to stick it out.
Then, Roxanne Davyduke, VantageOne Credit Union sales and service manager, began announcing the winners, and when he wasn’t chosen for third place (Rebecca Hackman, Bites Creative), or second place (Juanita Miller, Juanita Miller Nutrition), Paris began to lose hope.
But as Davyduke spoke of the first place winner, he recognized some of her words: “This product is niche in nature and shows strong growth potential…Judges loved the passion and commitment to providing a unique healthy alternative in the market.”
And then she said it: “Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of VantageOne Credit Union, I am very pleased to announce the first place winner of the 2017 Enterprize Challenge, Martin Paris of Jolly Good Spudz.”
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Martin, red-cheeked and soft spoken, even minutes after hearing those words over the microphone. “I don’t know what avenues it will open so I’m quite excited.”
First place in the Enterprize Challenge earns a prize package worth more than $19,000, and includes start-up capital, free business banking for a year, and a range of packages, including legal, accounting, marketing and web design, and graphics as well as a radio and print campaign.
Paris says the support will bring Jolly Good Spudz to downtown Vernon all the quicker.
The other two finalists, sharing the remainder of the $35,000 in prizes, will also give Vernon a taste of their talents.
Third place winner Rebecca Hackman’s catering company Bites Creative brings gourmet, organic food sensitivity-minding dishes right to customers’ door (and she’ll even do the clean-up and decorating).
Second place winner Juanita Miller, already based out of the Mustard Seed Clinic, helps women achieve health and beauty through her nutrition coaching, skin analysis, wellness education and grocery store tours.
Community Futures North Okanagan board member Michele Blais said among the 23 contestants who entered this year’s third annual Enterprize Challenge, many had business ideas that were influenced by the bounty of the Okanagan or the environmental and wellness values of its residents.
“One of the things that I think is so impressive is how these businesses reflect what is so great about the Okanagan,” said Blais, citing Power Trips, a Tesla car rental company, The Rumpus Raft, a lake-floating convenience store, and, of course, the winning businesses offering healthy fare which dozens of people had the chance to taste at the tradeshow and awards event.
To all participants, board chair Michele Hill congratulated them on their efforts and reminded them of Community Futures’ support.
“We applaud you for stepping up and taking this challenge. You’ve been given a tremendous opportunity to begin your journey, and you have a huge step up.”
The Community Futures Enterprize Challenge is presented by VantageOne Credit Union, and another 12 organizations sponsored the event to make the challenge and its prizes possible.