FOR THE MORNING STAR
More than three years ago, nurse and new mother Kayley Letendre moved back to Vernon from the coast to raise her young family when she started craving something that she and her husband devoured while travelling before they had kids.
Letendre felt there was a gap in the Okanagan for quality, locally made ice cream inspired by regional flavours.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why does the most beautiful place with the most beautiful summers not have beautiful ice cream?’”
Letendre started making her own ice cream to turn a personal longing into a consumable product. After receiving great feedback when serving her ice cream at friend’s barbecues, she considered turning her hobby into a business.
However, she didn’t know where to start until she heard a radio announcement about Enterprize Challenge, a boot camp for emerging entrepreneurs that culminates in a Dragon’s Den-style competition. Upon entering the 2019 competition, Letendre wowed the judges with her pitch and won the audience over with her enticing flavours, placing second.
Hosted by Community Futures North Okanagan (CFNO) and presenting sponsor VantageOne Credit Union, Enterprize Challenge is back for 2021. Postponed last year due to COVID-19, this year’s sixth annual competition will take place in a new virtual format.
“This year’s fully virtual challenge has been adapted to serve our community during the pandemic. We hope that moving to an online format makes the Enterprize Challenge even more accessible to those with young families and those who live outside Vernon or are working,” says Kazia Mullin, CFNO business services manager. “More than ever, this year’s Enterprize Challenge is about finding 2020’s silver lining and highlighting how our local entrepreneurs’ creative thinking, problem-solving, and flexibility has been an important part of keeping our community going during these difficult times.”
As in the past, 2021 entrants will have the opportunity to attend online workshops to learn everything from marketing and financials to building a sound business plan. They’ll also receive one-on-one mentorship virtually from local business owners and professionals.
“I had an amazing mentor in (CFNO Loans Advisor) Scot McNair. He saw my vision and kept me on track the whole time,” says Letendre. “Having someone within the business community shed light on the ins and outs was invaluable.”
In April seven finalists will pitch their business idea in front of judges in a format similar to CBC’s popular television show Dragon’s Den. However, instead of in front of a live audience, the event will be live-streamed from the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
Finalists will vie for prize packages valued at $35,000 that include marketing, advertising, legal, printing, banking, and accounting services. Participants also have the chance to earn a marketing package with the People’s Choice Award.
“A lot of businesses have pivoted and changed in 2020, so it will be interesting to see a continuation of that creativity and innovation, and how that will spill over to Enterprize Challenge,” says Mullin. “We’re looking forward to seeing how this year’s challengers change traditional business ideas to meet a new marketplace.”
Since participating in the 2019 Enterprize Challenge, Letendre has made the full transition from nursing to owning a business. She sells her Sugarbee’s Ice Cream at events, local stores, and more recently, online and credits the Enterprize Challenge for giving her a leg up and growing connections.
“Just the exposure from being a participant was huge. Now, people know who we are and we’ve teamed up with other businesses that have similar values.”
The 2021 Enterprize Challenge registration opened Jan. 4, and closes at noon Feb. 5. All workshops will be in the evenings, live through Zoom. The Enterprize Challenge is open to all North Okanagan residents with a business idea they intend to turn into an operating business in 2021 or are an independent business that opened in 2020.
To learn more or register, visit enterprizechallenge.ca.