Emerging businesses fed by the North Okanagan Enterprise Challenge

Olive Butler will never forget the night she stood on the stage of the Vernon Performing Arts Center.

It was an evening that she entered without any expectations and that changed the course of her small business.

It was the night that, after weeks of workshops and one-on-one mentoring, she won the 2022 Enterprise Challenge and took home more than $20,000 in prizes to help make her business a reality.

Nine months later, Butler has grown her natural, low-waste vegan cosmetics company, Conspiracy Cosmetics, from a small e-commerce business to an authentic beauty brand available in stores from the South Okanagan to Ontario.

“The main thing that has developed since joining the Enterprise Challenge is my confidence to move my business forward,” says Butler. “When I started the program, I didn’t feel like I knew enough. I felt like a cheater who needed more experience and better connections. By the end of the program, I had the knowledge and connections I needed to overcome that fear, that impostor syndrome. I realized that my work has meaning.”

Registration is now open for Community Futures North Okanagan’s 2023 Enterprise Challenge.

Starting in February, participants begin a series of business workshops and work one-on-one with a local mentor to refine their business plans. The program culminates with a live performance and awards ceremony at the Performing Arts Center on May 18, where first, second and third place winners and audience choice winners will be crowned.

“After seven years of Enterpize Challenges, we’ve seen such amazing demonstrations of creative thinking, problem solving and determination as our local entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to life,” says Kazia Mullin, Business Services Manager, Community Futures North Okanagan. “We can’t wait to see how this year’s participants rise to the challenge.”

Last spring, Centered Pilates’ Sean Ling-Allen rose to the challenge with a thoughtful performance and took home second place plus more than $10,000 in prizes.

“The Enterprize Challenge gave me a big push to launch the studio to the public,” says Ling-Allen. “It allowed me to meet a local studio that helped me with my marketing plan and led me to my mentor, Ken McLeod, who helped me refine my business idea. Now I have a plan for the next five years of my business.”

Since participating in the challenge, Ling-Allen has hired two part-time instructors and expanded group classes at the studio.

James Stuart, founder of Uplift Aero Greens, has also seen his business grow since winning third place and a $6,000 prize last April. Before the Enterprise Challenge, Uplift Aero Greens was ahead of revenue. The vertical growing business had four grow walls with 108 plants each, and Stuart spent his days designing, constructing and perfecting his aeroponic system.

“Everything about the Enterprise Challenge was out of my comfort zone. I’m not a public speaker, I’m usually quite reserved, but the challenge pushed me and helped me and my business grow,” says Stuart. “Now I have increased production by three times, which made it possible to reach grocers. Butcher Boys and Swan Lake Market & Garden buy whatever produce they can grow.”

For Waste Not Wool’s Leanna Maksymik, the program’s biggest draw wasn’t the prize package she won, but the opportunity to share her excitement about her product with the community.

“When we worked on the Enterprise Challenge, I didn’t even have my own wool pelleting machine yet. When I won the People’s Choice, it felt so good to know that people believed in my product, even though my business was still only a plan,” says Maksymik. “It was an incredible opportunity. Every entrepreneur should try to get into the program.”

Applications for Enterprise Challenge 2023 close on February 6 at 12 noon. For more information on the challenge, prizes and registration, visit futuresbc.com/enterprize-challenge.

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