Monday, November 16, 2009

Jenn Survives the Den

The CBC Broadcast Centre in Toronto provided the venue.

The personalities from "Dragons Den" provided the star power.

And the "YPG" contestants provided the drama.

Before a live audience of close to 600 people Friday at the Barbara Frum Atrium, three finalists in a national youth entrepreneurship talent search presented their best case in the hopes of winning their own franchise from Each had about 10 minutes to explain to "Dragons Den" stars Jim Treliving and Arlene Dickinson as well as "Honorary Dragon" Ken LeBlanc of why they should be the ones walking out of the building as the proud owner of their own business.

"Hurricane" Mallory MacDonald of Truro, Nova Scotia, was thought to have had the edge going into the final phase of the contest, but the 22-year old may have unsettled the "Dragons" with a presentation, that at times, bordered on overpowering. Andrew Maconachie of Barrie, Ontario offered a solid track record of already being successful in business, but nerves may have got the best of the 24-year old as he relied too heavily on scripted notes.

So in the end, when the announcement came from Ken ... the "Dragons" were sold on Jenn.

The 24-year old native of Oakville, Ontario, is the first-ever winner of the, National Youth Entrepreneurship contest. Jennifer Howarth combined passion with professionalism as she withstood the scrutiny of some of the toughest judges of business acumen in the country. It was Jenn who seemed most at ease fielding follow up questions from Treliving and Dickinson and after the "Dragons" huddled with LeBlanc for about 10 minutes, the trio selected Howarth and her bid to launch a franchise out of Windsor, Ontario.

Currently completing her business studies at Cape Breton University, Howarth plans to attend the National Franchise Conference the end of January in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her initial plan is to load up on summer courses to fast-track her graduate degree before opening her business in January of 2010.

As part of her prize package, Howarth becomes eligible for financial and mentoring support from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation which partnered with on this first-of-its-kind initiative. CYBF Chief Executive Officer Vivian Prokop was also on stage Friday and in chatting with event host Dianne Buckner, acknowledged the reaction to "YPG" far surpassed anything they could have hoped for.

TSB would like to salute sponsors like CBC, the National Post, the Keg, WestJet and Botsford Productions as well as a stellar volunteer team led by Project Manager Dan Gillis who pitched in serious hours and sweat to make this happen. What began as a boardroom brainstorming session in Moncton a mere six months ago, now has the potential to kick start a national movement to support youth entrepreneurship in Canada.

From the very beginning, Ken LeBlanc, fed up by the spread of recessionary doom and gloom in the news media, maintained something needed to be done to show Canada's youth another way of thinking. Perhaps instinctively, the CEO knew solutions to adult problems of the future depends to a large degree how young minds are taught in the present. And as the "YPG" idea and mission began to crystallize in that Moncton boardroom, he envisioned something much bigger than a franchise contest. Ken could see an opportunity for Canada's youth to learn the value of hard work by working hard; one that would reward risk-taking and celebrate the courage to follow a dream.

With an initiative built on the spirit of "a hand up, not a hand out".

Mission accomplished.

Much more to follow.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has"

p.s... the and the "YPG" team will be featured guests tonight at a gala event to mark the finale of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Toronto. Jennifer Howarth and company will also get to rub elbows with the newest "Dragon", Brett Wilson, who is scheduled to address the 500+ delegates scheduled to attend.


Erin said...

Hey Gair,

It was great to meet you at Friday's event! I thought it was a great chance to see the young entrepreneurial sprit that is so obviously alive an well in Canada.

Looking forward to tonight's gala, and to hopefully chatting with Jennifer in person!

Community Manager,

Gair Maxwell said...

Thanks Erin ... Great to have met you as well on Friday and really appreciate anything you and can do to help spread the "viral" message that is "YPG" ... We happen to believe Canada becomes a much better country when more and more young people take control of their own destiny and create the careers and opportunities of their dreams ... It was refreshing to see how that spirit manifested as "YPG" itself evolved from a dream in Moncton to a date in the "Den" in Toronto.

kiramatali shah said...

The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary.