Student Business Ideas Take Flight at KPU Eagles Den Competition

Winner says most of the work was “just showing up”

Kathleen McCullogh (Braden Klassen / The Runner)

Last month the annual Eagles’ Den business idea pitch competition was held in the Richmond campus conference centre. The competition pits Kwantlen Polytechnic University students against one another in a bid to present their business ideas to a judge’s panel, all in the hopes of being awarded a bit of funding for their startup venture.

The panel was comprised of a few Vancouver-based business owners and representatives, and the event was put together and hosted by members of Enactus KPU.

“Enactus itself is a non-profit, student-run organization that works to create social, economic and environmental change through entrepreneurial action,” explains Enactus KPU president, Zain Askari. “Eagles’ Den is an idea pitch competition based off of Dragons’ Den on CBC. It’s a platform that gives students the opportunity to be creative and present their ideas outside of their normal educational environment.”

“A lot of students have a lot of amazing ideas, but they don’t really have the platform or the means to do it,” continues Askari. “So we decided to host Eagles’ Den in order to give students a little push—especially in terms of entrepreneurship—to help them get out there and actually start doing something that’s bigger than themselves.”

The awards were to be given out to the top three presenters in the competition, but due to low attendance there were only three competitors in total. This meant that everyone who entered the competition ended up going home with an award. Kathleen McCullogh, a first-year student in KPU’s Fashion Marketing program, received the first-place prize of one thousand dollars in startup funding, as well as a VIP pass to audition for CBC’s Dragon’s Den.

“The biggest thing for me is the reassurance that it gives me, and knowing that I’m on to something,” says McCullogh. “Without having a background in business, and being a semester and a half deep in school, it’s nice to know that my idea is plausible.”

McCullogh’s winning product was ethically sourced slippers, meant “to raise awareness of eating disorders through pop-up breakfast clubs. The premise is to serve breakfast around a table, and people come in pajamas and slippers,” she explains.

“We can talk about mental health and eating disorders and all of these issues that we either forget to talk about or refuse to talk about, and kind of break down the walls of vulnerability and get into more authentic communication—as opposed to this false sense that we get through social media and online interaction.”

Judges Yukiko Nagashima and Laura Lalonde, both representatives from Coast Capital Savings, explained why they decided to get involved in the competition.

“I wanted to get an idea of what young people are thinking these days in terms of innovative ideas that impact social environmental or economic things within the community or on a global scale,” says Nagashima.

“A lot of the people I deal with are people who work for startup companies, so I was interested to hear these ideas at the very early stages of their development, rather than just seeing where those ideas end up,” says Lalonde.

Both judges admitted to being impressed by McCullogh’s presentation. “[Our] conversation was definitely around the potential she has to go far and attract attention,” says Lalonde. “Her presentation was quite strong. One of the criteria she met was that there was a fire in her belly, so she’s got the passion.”

“Oftentimes, most successful businesses are not always necessarily just about the idea, it’s the person behind it and how much they believe in it, and she exhibited that.”

“I feel really lucky that I stumbled across this,” says McCullogh. “It took me all of five minutes to fill out the application, and a couple hours of my time today. This feels like such a big prize to win for a small amount of work—the majority was just showing up. I would recommend this to anyone, I’m surprised that there weren’t as many candidates, because it’s such a great opportunity.”

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