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Mobile produce market idea wins Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre’s Start It Up! competition

WOLFVILLE, NS - Challenged to use their entrepreneurial skills to solve existing community problems, a team of Acadia University students came up with a feasible means to market rejected produce.

The Start It Up! competition was open to everyone, including students, graduates, community members and entrepreneurs. There were four Horton High School students and an enterprising 12-year-old among the participants.

Over 28 hours, 16 teams worked to solve various problems. The Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre (AEC) manages Launchbox, a provincial sandbox pilot project, and coordinated the competition.

The validity of solutions was tested through the Lean Canvas Model and presentations were prepared to pitch ideas to a panel of judges. Teams also had an opportunity to take in workshops and work with local business mentors.

The winning team, Highway 101, was made up of three Acadia University students. They include Community Development and Environmental Studies student Alisha Christie, Environmental Studies and Economics student Emilia Ganslandt and Economics student Gillian Hollebone. They took home the $6,000 top prize.

One problem the teams were given to solve dealt with access to healthy food in Nova Scotia. The Highway 101 team members said they felt a connection and were drawn to this problem.

The team’s first-place concept was called “The Bus”, a mobile market selling produce that would otherwise be rejected by retailers at a reduced cost.

“That was the idea, to use food that was going to waste for no reason in particular and bring it to people who don’t necessarily always have access to it,” Christie said.

The idea included a pantry at the back of the bus where soup would be prepared using produce that didn’t sell the day before. People would be asked to pay what they could afford for the soup.

Ganslandt said the 28 hours were a bit of a whirlwind as they worked hectically with little sleep, crunching numbers and preparing a presentation. She said it felt like a competition to her during the last couple of hours when solutions were being pitched.

Christie said the competition was open to people with all sorts of backgrounds. If their team participates in a similar event in the future, they believe it would be beneficial to have a business student involved.

She said it was a good opportunity to learn more about her skills set and to gain confidence in exploring entrepreneurship moving forward.

Christie pointed out that if they were at a different point in life, they could have used the prize money to purchase a used bus and have it retrofitted. Ganslandt said it would cost in excess of $100,000 in the long run to launch the mobile market.

Hollebone said a big focus was placed on how realistic and feasible the ideas were. A believer in the power of positive thinking, she was confident going into the competition that their team would win.

“I thought we had a great idea and I believed in us,” she said. “I generally like going into things thinking the best is going to happen.”

The team plans to split the winnings three-ways. The trio will make a contribution to Feed Nova Scotia, put some money toward tuition and maybe indulge a little.

The Highway 101 team is considering taking part in another Launchbox competition in April.

About the competition

AEC executive director Findlay MacRae said the competition is designed to challenge participants to build on their entrepreneurial skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking and communication.

In 2016, Acadia was recognized as one of the country’s top-10 universities for student entrepreneurs. It’s dedicated to fostering a culture change, embracing entrepreneurship to support the rural economy.

Launchbox, the provincial sandbox pilot project, provides a space for students to experience all aspects of entrepreneurship from generating ideas through business modeling, validity testing and launching businesses.

As part of the pilot project, Acadia’s entrepreneurship centre for students is connected to all other universities and Nova Scotia Community College campuses across the province to provide programming, support and mentorship to students.

Other winning ideas

The second-place team included Jordan Leeks, Ben Tees and Sean Ostling. They created a solution to engage students to support retired seniors who want to stay in their homes but can’t maintain their property. They won $3,500.

The third-place team, Cultiv8, won $500. The team was made up of four students from the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus student entrepreneurship centre, including Lauren Pattison, Frederic Unger, Rebekah Bailey and Connor Fullerton. Their solution was an app designed to create a more balanced work-life culture.

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