TIMMINS – A team of Northern College students has spearheaded a competition for social entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas that would help alleviate issues within our community relating to homelessness, food security, access to social agencies and health care.
It is two-day event being held at Northern which kicked off on Tuesday and concludes today.
The competition was modelled after the large-scale competitions hosted by Enactus, which an international non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action.
In this case, Jonathan Lavergne, a first-year marketing major at Northern College, and Kevin Murphy, who is majoring at Northern in general business, downscaled the competition and brought it to a local level — inviting students and entrepreneurs from throughout Cochrane District to make their pitch.
The pitches would be made to a panel of judges made up of small business owners and representatives from a variety of social agencies.
The top idea would be awarded a prize of $3,000, which Lavergne said he hoped would be used by the entrepreneur towards the implementation of their idea.
A key factor, said Lavergne, is the sustainability of these ideas.
“We’re not looking as much at the funding (or revenues) because a social enterprise is not about making a profit, it’s about making funds to sustain that social enterprise,” said Lavergne. “So if you break even, that’s great. If you make a bit of a profit, most of the time it just goes back into the enterprise because you are just trying to improve your social enterprise and the social issue within the community. So the faster you can do that, the better it is for the community.”
In addition to their sustainability, other factors proposals would be judged on would include their feasibility, the ability to implement and whether it is capable of achieving its goals of aiding those who it is intended to help.
Heading into the first day Tuesday, Murphy said they had more than 30 entries, which he said they were happy with considering this is a first-time event.
“It is basically creating ideas where social issues are dealt with using business solutions,” explained Murphy. “So what they do is they get people with post-secondary backgrounds and people who are social agency representatives and people who tend to have strong social/business backgrounds together and try to look at an old problem with a fresh perspective; design a sustainable business model to deal with or at least alleviate some of the symptoms of those problems.
“So we figure this event would be a really good way to do a smaller, condensed version of that within our community and tackle some of the problems we face that have been going on for a while. Maybe some fresh young minds taking a look at it may be just what it needs.”
While they are serving as organizers of the competition this week at Northern College, Lavergne and Murphy are part of a team that competed at the provincial level of Enactus three weeks ago. They have pitched business solutions aimed at alleviating homelessness.
Lavergne said, “We pitched to a panel of judges there, and we’re going to be doing the same thing in May for the nationals and hoping we can implement our project within the community within the next coming months.”