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Student entrepreneur rewarded

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Creating successful business plans has become quite a tradition at the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program—and this year was no exception.

Last week, Grade 12 student Miriam Mast was awarded first place for her work in the 2008 Northwest High School Business Plan Contest.

Since 2002, the Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Services, working in partnership with the small enterprise centres across the province, has celebrated the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of Ontario’s high school students.

During that time, SCAP students consistently have been among the top three winners of the Northwest Business Centre’s annual competition.

Centre manager Mike Greaves was on hand last Tuesday (Oct. 7) to present Mast with a new Dell laptop computer and an all-expense paid trip to the Northern Ontario Business Plan Awards in Sault Ste. Marie, which will take place later this fall.

He also provided the entire school with a pizza lunch and a cake in celebration of Mast’s success.

Greaves explained the competition provides students with the opportunity to take a step into the real world by creating a business plan that could actually become a business venture down the road.

“Participating in the Northwest Business Plan Contest is the ultimate business experience for high school students,” he noted. “It’s life as an entrepreneur, but in a risk-free environment.”

Mast was chosen as this year’s winner because of her exemplary business plan entitled “Cut n Paste.”

“My plan,” she enthused, “was to create and sell craft kits to various groups in our society, such as the elderly in nursing homes, elementary school classes, and disabled children.

“I also think the kits would be great for young people to take to the mission fields in the summer,” she added.

The annual business plan contest is a chance for students in the Kenora-Rainy River districts to showcase their business and entrepreneurial talents as well as enhance their business, presentation, communication, and networking skills.

“We were encouraged by our teacher to research the existence of similar plans in the real world and to seek advice from these entrepreneurs,” Mast said.

She contacted a woman in Saskatchewan who presently is operating a similar kind of business. The woman was kind enough to send Mast a sample of her craft kit and explain how she got started in the business world.

Mast then took the advice, created her own plan, and adapted the kit to her particular business requirements.

“Working on my business plan was a lot of hard work, but also extremely exciting and rewarding,” Mast remarked.

Six schools were involved in this year’s competition and more than 15 business plans were entered. They were evaluated based on a set of marking criteria which examined the various aspects of the assignment, such as executive summary, business overview, market research, marketing plan, and financial plan and supplementary information.

The judging panel included a member from the local Community Futures Development Corp, a local business owner, and a commercial lender.

“I really want to thank my teacher, Mr. Giles, for encouraging me to do my best,” said Mast.

Phil Giles, now retired, spent several years promoting the business plan competition at SCAP. Over the last five years, students from the program, under Giles’ direction, consistently have placed in the top three.

This year Erin Olsen placed third in the contest.

The Northwest Business Centre (www.nwbiz.ca/nwbc/) provides a range of initiatives and programs designed to inspire entrepreneurship as a career. The aim of these initiatives is to motivate emerging entrepreneurs to develop their own entrepreneurial potential.

The services offered by the centre are free and available to all community members, including business owners, prospective entrepreneurs, and youth from across Northwestern Ontario.

If you have an idea for a small business, the centre can connect you with resources from the private sector and all levels of government (municipal, provincial, and federal).

It also can give you start-up or expansion advice.

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