VERNON, BC—Back in December, Teresa Sanders read an article about what she calls “the myth of recycling plastics” that opened her eyes and her imagination. She decided to do something about it and came up with a business idea to provide refillable cleaning and hygiene products to the community.
Her idea will soon become a reality now that Sanders has been named the 2019 Enterprize Challenge grand prize winner.
“I am so pumped for the opportunity to reduce plastics in our community,” said an elated Sanders, who has won close to $20,000 in prizes provided by Enterprize sponsors. “I’ve seen refill stores in Chilliwack, Victoria, Vancouver, but noticed there was none here in the Okanagan. I am happy we can do this for the earth, but I am also happy for myself and to open the business FILL.”
Sanders was one of seven finalists who competed at the awards and challenger showcase, April 24 at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. More than 200 people attended the event, which saw the finalists display their business ideas in the centre’s foyer before giving the final pitch to judges in front of a live audience.
“We had such an incredible calibre of entries this year,” said Kazia Mullin, Business Services Coordinator with Community Futures North Okanagan, which has organized the Enterprize Challenge for five years. “Judging from the applause and shouts of support, the audience enjoyed watching the finalists pitch their ideas to the judges. It was like watching the Dragon’s Den live and was exciting to see how well all of them did in their presentations.”
Also new this year was the People’s Choice Award, where supporters could vote for their favourite showcase and pitch via an online survey. Ashley and Michael Reina of Therabyte Inc., a cloud-based web application for therapists, won the People’s Choice, while Kayley Letendre of Sugarbee’s Ice Cream Company came second, and Marilyn Courtenay of the Boarding House Café placed third.
“This was an amazing opportunity to learn how to start a business,” said Letendre, who gave out samples of her French-style all natural ice cream during the showcase.
“I really appreciated the support and mentorship I had from my mentor, Scot McNair. He was instrumental in getting me to where I needed to be. Now the sky’s the limit.”
Sanders also thanked her mentor, Amy Gillies, a commercial lender at VantageOne Credit Union, for her support.
“I learned so much from working with her,” said Sanders, who is currently looking for a storefront to open FILL. “We had an incredible team at Community Futures and from the community who came in to help us with everything from marketing to creating a business plan.”
Ted Morrison, VP of Commercial Banking at VantageOne, who has served as an Enterprize judge for the past two years, says he was impressed with the calibre of all the contestants this year.
“We ended up with 18 presentations at the beginning of the challenge, and all of them were fascinating. I learned a lot. To see the passion in the room was enough for me to think that we have a good future here in the North Okanagan when it comes to business talent,” said Morrison, adding that VantageOne Credit Union has supported the Enterprize Challenge as a sponsor since day one and plans to continue its support.
Leigha Horsfield, General Manager, Community Futures North Okanagan, says the Enterprize Challenge would not be possible without the support of the sponsors who have not only donated the more than $30,000 prizes but have helped in other ways.
“This year, VantageOne Credit Union and another 14 organizations sponsored the event to make the challenge and its prizes possible. We are grateful for the support and are looking forward to seeing our challengers reach their goals of opening and marketing their businesses. We wish them all the best.”