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Vertical farm business turns judges’ heads in Shuswap Launch-A-Preneur

Aspiring entrepreneurs pitch to judges and enthusiastic Salmon Arm crowd

Entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in Salmon Arm.

This was abundantly clear at the Salmar Classic Theatre on Thursday, June 9, when season six of the Shuswap Launch-a-Preneur program concluded with 14 participating teams pitching their business ideas in the entrepreneurship competition.

Though all the teams taking part were recognized as winners, after the first round of two-minute presentations, the judges, including Andrew Klingel from Okanagan College; Brea Lake, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan; Leigha Horsfield, executive director of Community Futures North Okanagan; and Richard Toperczer with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, chose the following to proceed to the next round of 10-minute pitches: Clayton Beadle with Grow Up Farm, Kate Boutillier with FLAKE Pastry Chocolate Cake, Sam Ward with Monster Designworks, and Karina White with Ecotreats Wholesale.

Boutilier, a chef, is pursuing a Salmon Arm storefront where she can sell her elegant cakes and pastries.

“I will open my business in Salmon Arm,” said Boutillier. “It’s just a matter of finding the right leasehold in the right space, and Launch-a-Preneur will definitely help with that.”

Beadle, who also worked as a chef, was looking for Launch-a-Preneur’s support for a self-contained modular vertical farming unit which would be used to supply local restaurants and grocers with greens.

“This technology allows me to grow 12 months of the year with zero chemical pesticides, 90 per cent less water than traditional agriculture, 95 per cent less land than traditional agriculture, and it will be hyper local… I can put this anywhere,” said Beadle.

Ward was vying for support to broaden production of a product of his own design, a self-reloading pipe.

“It’s convenient, compact, simple and discreet, and provides a consistent quantity every time it’s reloaded,” explained Ward. “You just gently shake the unit, pull up the pipe and it’s ready to go.”

White’s idea to expand her business involves setting up a facility in Salmon Arm that would produce Ecotreats gluten-free baked goods for distribution to cafes/coffee shops throughout B.C.

“We’re going to come in with these, with our wholesale products, and deliver something that is going to fill the need of their customers and at the same time increasing our sales…,” said White.

Following the last presenter and an intermission, the evening’s winners were announced, with Beadle taking top prize including more than $31,000 in cash and supports, donated by sponsors, aimed at helping Launch-A-Preneur participants getting their entrepreneurial ideas off the ground. Beadle was also selected for the Green Award prize package valued at $2,680. White received a second-place prize package valued at $15,550. Boutillier received a third place prize valued at more than $5,342. Ward received a prize package worth $2,777. Though she didn’t make the top for, Anna DeWolff won the public choice prize package worth $2,242 for her business Choose Refill, which will be opening at the former Benjamin Moore store near Boston Pizza.

More than $80,000 was received from 40 local sponsors for the prize packages.

“The most amazing part of the Shuswap Launch-a-Preneur program is how our community comes together to support these teams,” said Lana Fitt, economic development manager with the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society. “The support extends well beyond the program and the prize packages and sees our community following their progress for years to come.

“The whole Shuswap gets behind these entrepreneurs and creates a supportive environment to foster their start-up.”

Read more: Launch-a-Preneur participants give Shuswap residents sneak peek at business creations

Read more: Cosmetic line earns top honours in Launch-a-Preneur
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