What I learned at the Innovation Centre’s PlanIt Competition

Guest posts by Kim Dias

On April 12, five judges gathered at the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Centre at UVic to hear the presentations of eight UVic students for the Innovation Centre’s PlanIt competition.

PlanIt lets students submit business plans, then present them to a panel of judges in a bid for prize money to invest into their business.

Alex Tardif

The Innovation Centre provides resources to help emerging entrepreneurs with their business. Their services are available to all UVic students, faculty, staff, and recent alumni. No matter where someone is in the process of starting a new business, they can visit the Innovation Centre for guidance, resources, and potential investment and financing options.

I attended the PlanIt competition on April 12 and was astonished by the innovation and drive I saw from the eight student presenters. There was huge variety in the types of businesses these students are running—everything from beeswax food wraps to car sales platforms to AI.

Faizan Ali Khan

If I’m honest, I had been expecting the presentations to be more amateurish—more like class projects than actual business pitches. But these were legitimate businesses; the majority of presenters were already selling their product.

Each presentation wrapped up with a question-and-answer session with the judges, who offered challenging questions, but also thoughtful advice. The prize money totalled $7000 split between four winners; on top of that, the judges also awarded two $500 prizes for sustainability and social innovation. The judging panel was made up of local business owners, managers, and entrepreneurs: Hong Yu, Kael Campbell, Tara Clark, Rob Bennett, and Thomas Ahn.

Judging Panel

The student presenters were Katie Gamble, Chet Flanagan, Faizan Ali Khan, Lachlan Shum, Mike Irvine, Taylor McCarten, Tari Murwira, and Alex Tardif. Some were more visibly nervous than others, but as each presentation was 15-20 minutes long, each presenter had time to settle in and hit their stride. I especially loved Katie Gamble’s presentation for her company Nature Bee, which was full of bee-themed puns.

The majority of the presenters seemed to be having fun, many of them bantering with the judges before and after their presentation, and all of them were deeply passionate about their business.

It was also such a supportive environment. I joked with the judges about whether they felt like they were on Dragons’ Den, but in reality, the similarities ended at the premise.

Katie Gamble

The judges were so encouraging and even when they questioned the presenters’ business decisions, it was always done kindly; you could feel that everyone in the room wanted these young entrepreneurs to succeed.

The Innovation Centre provides amazing opportunities and resources for emerging entrepreneurs. The next PlanIt will be hosted in summer 2019; PitchIt, the Innovation Centre’s elevator pitch competition, will also be hosted in summer 2019. You can find more information on these two competitions, as well as more about the Innovation Centre, on the Innovation Centre’s website. Though PlanIt is closed to the public, PitchIt welcomes an audience, so if you’re too nervous to pitch your own idea, but want to see what it’s all about, go watch!

If you have a business idea you want to explore, or already have a business plan in motion and need some advice, reach out to the Innovation Centre. Their services are completely free and, if the PlanIt presentations I saw are any indication, they’re fantastic at helping people find the right path.

Mike Irvine

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