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Pitch Day Means Business for Innovative U of W Program

Thursday, August 03, 2017


Published on: August 3, 2017

It’s like getting paid to go to school. But it’s all about business.

The University of Windsor’s EPICentre on Wednesday hosted Pitch Day — this year’s culmination of an innovative three-year-old program that actually pays participants to build their own businesses.

The EPIC Founders program — sponsored by RBC and the Ontario Centres of Excellence — pays 12 young entrepreneurs $6,000 to complete a 12-week program in which they don’t just learn about business, but actually create one.

“It’s great,” said Nicole Anderson, the EPICentre program director. “It’s nice because students don’t have to find a full-time job through the summer. They can actually work on something they’re passionate about.”

On top of earning a salary, the 12 entrepreneurs under 29 — chosen from more than 50 applicants — also competed on Pitch Day for two awards: the $500 WEtech Alliance Award for best local technology start-up, and the $3,500 RBC Top Founders Award, for best overall start-up.

Scott Fairley’s Optimotive Technologies, which provides research and development for automotive companies, won the WEtech Award, while Bridget Taylor’s New Routes, which collects organic waste from restaurants, claimed the RBC Top Founders Award.

Taylor, 21, a fourth-year commerce student at the Odette School of Business, started developing New Routes six months ago after a school project got her thinking about managing waste. So New Routes will provide restaurants mail-box style bins for organic waste and will pick them up when full for $35 — then compost the stuff, in order to provide community gardens with rich soil.

If all goes well, Taylor would like to include an after-school program that teaches youngsters about such things as composting, how to build birdhouses and more.

“I run cross-country for the university and I’m outdoorsy and into cycling so it was nice to be able to take my passion for being outdoors and the environment and to start a business where I’m actually doing that and making a difference,” said Taylor, a Tecumseh native. “I want to be about giving back to the community.”

Ana Hassanpour started creating her business almost by accident shortly after moving to Canada from her native Iran five years ago, when she couldn’t easily find all-natural skin care products. Out of necessity, she began making creams and scrubs and lip balms for herself and friends — and her stuff proved popular.

Somebody eventually suggested she try selling on, a website for unique and hand-made products. So she posted her Jouan brand offerings and bingo, sales started coming in.

The 26-year-old, third-year biochemistry student spent the summer refining Jouan hair-removal products and plans to relaunch with more fare in January, largely thanks to the EPIC Founders program.

“The whole program helps us work on our products and our ideas,” Hassanpour said. “The Pitch Day gave us a deadline, so it made us put everything together and get it ready. It has helped a lot.”