When her video camera turned on suddenly after the announcement was made, Amanda Homeniuk’s cheerful smile filled the screen.
In a matter of minutes, Homeniuk had gone from sitting in a virtual green room with six other North Okanagan entrepreneurs to speaking in front of a live audience before the cameras turned off and she was alone in her store. She had just won first place and a business services package valued at more than $20,000. But, more importantly, she learned everything she needed to make KALECO a success.
Through the 2021 Enterprize Challenge, Homeniuk and her fellow contestants met business advisors, mentors and specialists who helped turn their business dreams into a reality.
“I really valued the process. The Enterprize Challenge is structured in a way that not only prepares for the contest but teaches you everything you need to know to start a business,” says Homeniuk. “Working with the mentors helped me understand where my skill set lies.”
Hosted by Community Futures North Okanagan and presenting sponsor VantageOne Credit Union, the seventh annual Enterprize Challenge returns to the virtual stage in 2022.
“This year, we’re striving to make the Enterprize Challenge even more accessible to those with young families and those who live outside of Vernon,” says Kazia Mullin, CF North Okanagan Business Services Manager. “As our business landscape continues to develop, innovative businesses are transforming traditional business ideas to find success in a changing marketplace. We can’t wait to see how this year’s participants are rising to the challenge.”
Challengers are paired with mentors from the local business community to help refine their pitch as they attend online workshops that cover everything from financials to marketing. After weeks of training, the 2022 Enterprize Challenge culminates in a night of pitches live-streamed from the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre April 28. The winner, selected by a group of volunteer judges, takes home start-up capital plus thousands of dollars in business services prize packages.
But, for Tiffany and Olivier Asselin of OTA Gear Rental, the learning opportunities and network they cultivated through the program were worth more than their second-place win.
“The support system we have now would not have been achievable as easily or as quickly without going through the program,” says Tiffany. “The relationships we built are irreplaceable.”
And, through the workshops, OTA Gear Rental found plenty of room to grow.
“We were thinking too small. When we got our feedback from the first pitch and started the deep dive into the financials, we realized we could do so much more,” says Tiffany. “The Enterprize Challenge helped us discover our start-up cost would be minimal with little overhead. When we were doing our finances, we thought we were doing something wrong because we didn’t think it could possibly be that simple. Being paired with an accountant to help us was one of the best parts of the whole experience.”
Working with the financial advisor was also a critical learning experience for Homeniuk.
“I had pulled loose numbers together, but it was different for me because I had already started my business. I had real numbers to work with. Having that mentor to go over the numbers and what they mean was really helpful,” says Homeniuk. “I felt very confident in the numbers because I had someone to help me work through it.”
Since participating in the 2021 Enterprize Challenge, both KALECO and OTA Gear Rental have continued to grow and solidify their footprints in the North Okanagan.
“If you’re thinking about applying, do it. You lose nothing and gain so much. We didn’t even think we would get into the program, never mind making it to the finale and placing. The knowledge we got and the relationships we gained were worth it, even if we hadn’t made it as far as we did,” says Tiffany. “The world needs more people with new ideas. The Enterprize Challenge will help you define that idea and make it a reality.”
For Homeniuk, the Enterprize Challenge helped her gain a more holistic view of her business.
“As an entrepreneur, you don’t have to do everything on your own,” says Homeniuk. “You’re creating something bigger than yourself.”
Registration for the 2022 Enterprize Challenge closes Feb. 11 at 12 p.m. For more information about the challenge, prizes and registration, visit futuresbc.com/enterprizechallenge.