New category added to business idea contest | Local Business

Linda D. Garrow

It’s time for students to Enter The Den once again as the 2022 competition begins.

A new category for grades seven and eight competitors has been added to the regular grades nine to 12 students.

Participants will compete for the first-place winning of $1,000, second-place winning of $500 and third place, earning $250.

Deborah Poole-Hofmann, the event planner with Thunder Bay Ventures, says the goal of the competition is not necessarily for the students to start a business, but to learn and prepare for diverse areas of business as professional careers.

Each competitor can learn about different business operations and practices as well as develop management, budgeting and interpersonal skills.

“Entrepreneurship for youth is a very easy way for them to get involved,” Poole-Hofmann said.

“They’re not afraid to take risks.”

She added that it’s a great way for students to get their feet wet and try it out.

“And they’re not afraid of technology,” Poole-Hofmann said. “I find a lot of the kids have done lots of things with technology where older generations weren’t too sure about things — and kids just dive right in with no fear.”

Nicole Mighton, owner of Nicole’s Creative Customs, an online business where she sells refurbished furniture, competed in Enter the Den when she was in high school and credits the competition with teaching her some fundamental business practices.

“I learned a lot of things like business plans, how to start a business, going through the cost and budgeting and how to grow it,” Mighton said.

After her father gave her an old sewing table and challenged her to refurbish it into something functional, Mighton found her talent and began her craft. She learned of the Enter the Den competition, entered it, and today as an adult, her business continues to flourish.

“I try to come up with new ideas, and if I get stuck with something, I can easily reach out to the entrepreneurship program (at Thunder Bay Ventures) and they’ll help me and even send me a business plan,” she said.

The last event entertained 120 submissions that were narrowed down to the top three. Applying to compete begins with submitting an application with business ideas. The application involves a two-page questionnaire asking about the product or service, what is to be sold and why it’s a great idea. The application goes to a selection committee who will narrow it down.

Poole-Hofmann says this year, it’ll be different.

“They will pick seven semi-finalists in each category,” she said.

“Those (14) students will work on a business plan and we’re here to support them with the resources and help them put it all together. Then they will present their idea in front of five judges who will ask them questions.

“These judges are great. They’re always blown away by the students and they’re very supportive. They’re not nasty like the TV show, and they’ll give you suggestions and ideas and go for it.”

Supports and resources, which include tips on writing the business plan, marketing and presentation skills, will be available to assist students as they progress through the event.

Five finalists will be chosen who will each give a live presentation. The judges will choose the top three and runners-up who will win prizes.

“Everybody wins something even if they become a runner-up,” Poole-Hofmann said.

Submission of business ideas should be well researched, well presented, and well defended, as both written and verbal presentations will be required.

Students are also expected to follow their business plan in developing their business idea.

The application for the contest can be found online at The entry deadline is March 23, with semi-finals on April 12-13 and finals on May 3.

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