Teresa Sanders, owner of Fill - Vernon’s Refill Store, opened the doors to her shop in Polson Park Mall on Dec. 3, 2019. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)

Enterprize seeks budding North Okanagan business ideas

Registration opens soon for Community Futures Enterprize Challenge

Her Facebook feed illustrates an eight-month journey marked by milestones (holding the first place Enterprize Challenge trophy, leasing a space in the Polson Mall, and labeling bulk laundry soap) as well as mantras (pushing against plastic for lettuce, kids’ containers, sea life and the water bottles consumed by billions). On Saturday, Dec. 7, as FILL Vernon’s Refill Store celebrated its grand opening to an endless stream of customers, owner Teresa Sanders reflected on the role of Enterprize Challenge:

“It’s been amazing to see all the people behind us and the pure excitement about the opportunity to ditch plastic,” said Sanders. “So many people have said, ‘We were just waiting for you to open’ or ‘I saw your presentation and I’m so excited you’re finally open.’ We just wouldn’t have had that build up or the community around us, and I’m so grateful for that.”

READ MORE: New Vernon store fills green need

Community Futures North Okanagan (CFNO), which hosts the sixth annual Enterprize Challenge presented by VantageOne, opens the 2020 competition Jan. 6 to another crop of emerging entrepreneurs vying for more than $45,000 in prizes. Described by many participants as a “bootcamp for small business,” the competition culminates with seven finalists pitching their business to judges à la Dragon’s Den in front of a live audience at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

“The Enterprize Challenge is about getting businesses started off on the right foot,” said Kazia Mullin, Business Services Manager, CFNO. “Our goal is to have everyone who participates get training, skills, and a chance to boost their business’ marketing. And a big part of that comes from learning how to pitch your business.”

Leading up to that April 28 public presentation, however, is an incredible amount of preparation as well as support. Workshops and mentorship sessions are held to help participants understand the fundamentals of starting a business. They are supported in preparing for their initial presentation, which is held in front of a panel of judges behind closed doors.

“We changed the format of the event last year to have our seven finalists do a public pitch to our judges. Not only did finalists have the general public get excited about their business but the finalists themselves stepped up and elevated their understanding of what makes their business successful,” says Mullin.

The prize packages are created to give winners a leg up in their first year of operations and include marketing, advertising, legal, printing, banking, and accounting services. Participants also have the chance to earn a marketing package with the People’s Choice Award.

It’s been an exciting time for the 2019 top three winners. FILL opened its doors in early December; second place winner Sugarbee’s Ice Cream Company became a household name as the bicycle cooler filled with real ice cream made its way to markets, shops and festivals; and third place winner The Boarding House Café is set to open its coffee house filled with board games on 31st Avenue.

“Even the people who don’t ‘win’ come away as winners because they now have a deeper understanding of their business and where the opportunities for success are,” said Mullin.

The Community Futures Enterprize Challenge is presented by VantageOne Credit Union with other local businesses and organization sponsoring the event to make the challenge and its prizes possible. Enterprize 2020 registration opens Jan. 6, 2020 and closes Feb. 7 for participants with a business idea or a business that opened in the last 12 months. To learn more or register, visit enterprizechallenge.ca.

READ MORE: Rosters serves up Vernon pub expansion plans


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