May 25th, 2020

Student entrepreneurs pitch business ideas

By JEREMY APPEL on January 11, 2020.

Eagle Butte students Eli Lavoie-Pierzchala and Clayton Lehr pitch their business proposal of hooks made from horseshoes at Medicine Hat College on Friday.--SUBMITTED PHOTO

Students from Medicine Hat public and Prairie Rose schools pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges at Medicine Hat College on Friday, the culmination of a semester-long project.

At the end of the day, three awards were given out – best pitch, entrepreneurial spirit and, as voted on, students’ choice.

MHC entrepreneur outreach co-ordinator Christie Wilson has been visiting participating schools – Eagle Butte, Medicine Hat High, Foremost and Bow Island’s Senator Gershaw – to work with students to improve their initial business proposals.

“Each week, I go out and work with the students, and it takes a lot of work and commitment from the teachers, division and students to work their way through Business Model Canvas to the point where they can share their business venture idea,” said Wilson. “That’s what today is all about.”

She describes Business Model Canvas as a more fluid approach to developing a business idea, as opposed to tying students to a formal business plan.

“It’s very much about being creative and iterating, rather than being stuck to a big plan,” Wilson said. “It’s easy to use in a group.”

She describes the process as a “journey” with “lots of ups and downs.”

Clayton Lehr, a Grade 12 Eagle Butte student, has been working on his business for the past few years – Rough Tough Hooks, which are made from horseshoes.

He pitched the coat and hat hooks as a recycling initiative.

“The horseshoes get used on horses’ feet for so long, and then eventually get taken off and just thrown out. It doesn’t do any good, so we take these horseshoes and make them into something that can be used for them,” said Lehr. “You take one product and you upcycle it into another.”

Although he started working on the business well before he took the class at Eagle Butte, Lehr says Wilson helped him take the business to the next level.

“I used to sell like five hooks a year and now I can sell 50-80,” he said. “They showed me the way to sell the product and price it so people are still interested in it.”

Foremost’s Brynne Ellert was selling Alberta beef dog treats made from cattle on her family ranch.

“It’s all grass-fed, non-GMO and really good for the dog,” she said.

Ellert said she had “no idea how to pitch a business” prior to taking the entrepreneurship class.

She said the class taught her to differentiate her product from others on the market.

“Before I didn’t push it as local or grass-fed. I’m really pushing that now, but before it was just dog treats,” said Ellert.

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