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High School Students From Across The North Get A Head Start In Business

"It's a project that helps students think about entrepreneurship as a viable career option "-Bonnie Martineau

More than 130 secondary school students from across Northern Ontario spent the past two days at Canadore College and Nipissing University, participating in "Enterprise Olympic's, a 'business pitch competition."  

The project was put forth by the Community Futures Development Corporation.

Bonnie Martineau is the communications coordinator for Head Start in Business which helped organize the event.  She explained that each group of young people, was tasked to come up with a business idea they thought would work in Northern Ontario, develop a business plan for that idea and pitch it to a panel of judges. Mentors from the community helped students through the process. 

"It's a project that helps students think about entrepreneurship as a viable career option," said Martineau.  

"We help them come up with ideas, we do a lot of activities and brainstorming sessions.  We even direct high school students to where they can get financing for their business."

Damen Bell, a grade 11 student who attends Englehart Secondary school, participated in Enterprise Olympics last year.  

He used what he learned at that competition to get the funding he needed to start up a summer ice cream business in his home town.

"I learned that it is really hard to run your own business and you have to be social, you have to talk to people, you've got to get your name out there," said Bell. 

"You've just got to be really confident and just go for the stars." 

Lucy Beaulac is Bell's business teacher.  She credits the event for giving students like Bell, the confidence they need to think outside the box.

"I know that these experiences, the practicality, being able to work with other students from other schools, gives them an opportunity to really show what they can do and I find that so exciting," she said. 

The students had six 'business sectors' from which to choose.  They included retail, technology and innovation, health and wellness and arts and culture. Each group brainstormed ways to bring their ideas to market.

Julia Kim is a grade 10 student from Timmins.  Her group project was health and wellness related.

"Our idea is to create an app to help people get into a healthy lifestyle. So we're including meal plans and workout videos that are quick and easy to save time, because a lot of parents with their families don't have a lot of time."  

The five students in her group put together a power point presentation for the judges.   

Students quickly learned where their strengths lie. 

In areas like marketing or designing logos. Grade 11 student,  Kentessa Pearce, who was part of Kim's group, discovered her strength is in finances. 

"We researched a lot of statistics and I think we worked really hard on it. It's a really good experience learning how to pitch ideas and be creative," said Pearce, adding that she enjoyed meeting and working with other students from across the north, some from as far away as Sault Ste. Marie and Moose Factory. 

Last year's event was held in Timmins. North Bay previously hosted the Olympics in 2014. Each member of the over-all winning team received a $1000 scholarship to a participating post-secondary institution in Northern Ontario.