DC student entrepreneurs pitch it for their chance to win

Pitch competitions are exciting experiences that help founders share their businesses with industry professionals while improving their communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Last month, 11 student entrepreneurs from a number of Durham College (DC) programs, experienced just that during an on-campus pitch competition, hosted by FastStart, the college’s entrepreneurial resource hub.

After spending weeks preparing, the student start-ups gathered inside DC’s Centre for Innovation and Research to share their unique business ideas to fellow-entrepreneurs, faculty, and local investors. FastStart also brought together a diverse group of expert judges, providing competitors with an opportunity to network and learn from industry leaders, including Ivan Cheung, Invest Durham; Kristen Marumoto, DNA Angels; Travis Dutka, 360Insights; and Andrew Ko, Futurpreneur.

“I’ve been to a few pitch competitions but this one at Durham College really tops the list, it was a pleasure to witness unique and creative solutions to existing problems and it was very inspiring for the judges.” says Ko. “What I loved most was the human side of their stories and why they want to start or continue their businesses, and the passion and enthusiasm for their communities and ideas. This energy was infectious, and I appreciated the dedication and commitment the pitches demonstrated.”

Each contestant had five minutes to pitch their business idea, vision and projected impact for their chance to win up to $1,000 and an iPad, generously donated by the Durham College Student Association. They also had two and a half minutes following their pitch to answer questions from the judges.

Each founder garnered great exposure for their business while also having fun honing their skills. Rochelle Palmer, second-year student in DC’s Fitness and Health Promotion program, took home first place with her business, EmpowHER, a fitness centre made for women that incorporates mental health with an onsite occupational therapist.

“After suffering from post-partum depression, I knew my dream of opening a gym needed to have a focus on mental health, and that’s how the idea of EmpowHER came about!” said Palmer. “I was nervous at the beginning of my pitch, but once I got up there, my passion shined through, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.”

Sundar Manku, Manager, Entrepreneurship Services at DC, says pitch competitions like this one, empowers student entrepreneurs and unlocks the doors to opportunity.

“All of our entrepreneurs did tremendously well, they’re now ready to effectively communicate their ideas to potential customers, investors, and stakeholders,” he said. “This competition not only showcased the creativity within our student community, but it also supports Durham College’s dedication to cultivating the next generation of visionary leaders and business trailblazers.”

The guidance and support found inside FastStart helps student entrepreneurs at DC develop the skills required to transform innovative business ideas into successful companies. Regardless of which program a student may be in, if they have a business idea, FastStart can help. This is something Palmer highly recommends to her peers who are thinking of starting a business or who need help scaling an existing one.

“I’ve been working with Sundar at FastStart once a week and he’s already taught me so much,” said Palmer. “Starting a business is not easy and having guidance and support along the way can make all the difference.”

Learn more about FastStart online or check out their Instagram for upcoming events.