Martin Paris of Jolly Good Spudz won the 2017 Enterprize Challenge, and his business opens its doors Jan. 30. (Photo submitted)

Martin Paris of Jolly Good Spudz won the 2017 Enterprize Challenge, and his business opens its doors Jan. 30. (Photo submitted)

Enterprize challenge open for entries

Dragon’s Den-style contest offers opportunities for Vernon entrepreneurs

Natalie Appleton

Special to The Morning Star

Following the 2017 Enterprize Challenge, which brought forth a record 23 entrepreneurs—many with business ideas that harnessed the bounty and beauty of the Okanagan—judges can’t wait to see what contestants will pitch this year.

“Everyone was so impressed with the business ideas that were presented at Enterprize Challenge last year,” says Leigha Horsfield, executive director, Community Futures North Okanagan, which hosts the fourth annual competition that spans eight weeks and sees 10 finalists compete for more than $35,000 in prizes. “We’re all looking forward to seeing how the 2018 contestants bring their unique spirit of entrepreneurship to the competition.”

The 2017 winner, Martin Paris, will open the doors to his restaurant, Jolly Good Spudz, Jan. 30. The downtown venue will see patrons choose from an array of healthy and delicious locally inspired toppings for their potatoes such as pulled pork. Paris says it feels surreal to have the vision for his restaurant coming to life nine months after winning Enterprize.

“This contest pushes you to take the first steps that you might otherwise only ever talk about. Winning gave me an incredible boost, and then the real work began,” says Paris, just putting the finishing touches on his restaurant’s British-themed décor. “I don’t think I would have done this without the Enterprize Challenge.”

In this Dragon’s Den-style competition, seven finalists will move forward from the second task. Registration is now open and closes at noon on Feb. 9. Horsfield encourages all to apply.

“This is really a one-of-a-kind opportunity for anyone who has a great business idea and could really bring it to life with the prize package and all the hands-on work along the way.”

Following orientation, eight weeks of business planning sessions and tasks, and working with a mentor, seven finalists are chosen and participate in a trade show as part of the awards ceremony. The first place prize package, worth more than $19,000, includes start-up capital, free business banking for a year, and a range of packages, including legal, accounting, marketing and web design, and graphics as well as a radio and print campaign.

Last year’s second-place winner Juanita Miller is a nutritionist and health educator who focuses on helping women achieve their health and skin health goals through her practice at Mustard Seed Clinic as well as through online coaching and public speaking. She says participating in Enterprize gave her a wealth of resources and support.

“I was looking forward to networking and being in the tradeshow, but I received so much more. I’m very grateful for the mentorship. My mentor believed in me and encouraged me, and whether I won or not, she gave me permission to reach for my dreams.”

The Community Futures Enterprize Challenge is presented by VantageOne Credit Union, and another 12 organizations sponsor the event to make the challenge and its prizes possible. Participants can enter individually or as a team, and can register at www.futuresbc.com.