Iman Jaffari says starting his own business was not something he’d ever considered. But that was before he entered, and ultimately won, the Young Entrepreneurs, Make Your Pitch competition as a Grade 9 student in 2013.
“I didn’t even know what the word ‘entrepreneurship’ meant,” he admits. “After this competition, that changed.”
Two years later, the Toronto student has not only kept his award-winning recipe sharing business FoodPost.ca running, he has started a chapter of the student entrepreneur organization DECA at his high school and is encouraging other students to look to entrepreneurship as a career.
Jaffari joined Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid and OCE President and CEO Dr. Tom Corr to launch the third edition of Young Entrepreneurs, Make Your Pitch on Nov. 12 at Woburn Collegiate Institute in suburban Toronto.
“It’s important to start thinking about entrepreneurship in high school,” he told a group of 20 business students gathered for the launch. “Don’t say, ‘I’ll do it in university or when I’m 20 or 30’. This contest is your calling. We are the future of Canada and together with our ideas and with our innovation and with our entrepreneurial thoughts we can change the future for the better.”
The competition challenges high school students to pitch their business idea in a two-minute video. The videos are evaluated by judges from the business community and the public can vote for the best pitch online. Twenty finalists will present their ideas to a judging panel at Ontario Centres of Excellence's Discovery Conference in Toronto this coming April. The finalists will also receive business coaching and mentoring.
The contest is part of the Government of Ontario’s $295-millon Youth Jobs Strategy.
“Ontario has some of the most innovative, hardworking young entrepreneurs anywhere in the world,” says Minister Duguid. “The Young Entrepreneurs, Make Your Pitch competition aims to showcase their entrepreneurial energy and ideas, to help foster a creative and innovative business environment. Teaching business skills today will help our young people build their futures, become job creators, and help our province compete in a global economy.”
“Every year this contest brings out a terrific mix of enthusiasm and ideas from the students – two of the keys to starting a successful business,” adds Dr. Corr.
Six winners will be selected and presented with reserved entry into Ontario's Summer Company program, a prize that includes mentoring, training and a grant of up to $3,000 to help launch their business. A winner who doesn’t qualify for the Summer Company program will be provided with equivalent support..
Winners also receive a $750 education voucher from Desire2Learn, a Muse headband from InteraXon and a Nymi wristband from Bionym. All three companies received support from OCE in their formative years.
The video submission period ends on March 6, 2015 with on-line voting taking place from March 10 to April 2, 2015. Finalists will be announced April 10.