Savvy students head to Toronto

Sixteen undergraduates take part in the Queen’s Entrepreneur’s competition Thursday

Co-chairs Daniel Farewell and Katherine Wong Too Yen say the Queen’s Entreprenurial Competition has a top judge-to-competitor ratio.
Co-chairs Daniel Farewell and Katherine Wong Too Yen say the Queen’s Entreprenurial Competition has a top judge-to-competitor ratio.

The Queen’s Entrepreneurs' Competition is moving to Toronto for the first time on Thursday.

Now in its 24th year, the executive of the annual undergraduate business competition opted to take it out of Kingston so it would grow.

“We’d been in Kingston since we started, we knew all the venues, it was a well-oiled machine,” said co-chair Katherine Wong Too Yen.

Over 60 student teams from around the world submit business plans to the competition that offers cash prizes of $15,000 for first place, $6,000 for second, $2,000 for third and other sponsored prizes.

Queen’s business professors help narrow the entries down to 16 and over the weekend, 60 industry professionals judge the ideas in categories including feasibility based on its targeted market and whether there’s a need for the product. On Saturday, the top six ideas will compete.

Wong Too Yen said the Queen’s Entrepreneurs' Competition (QEC) differs from other student business competitions because of its international focus.

“It’s all the networking, our judge-to-competitor ratio is probably the top,” Wong Too Yen, Comm ’12, said.

Co-chair Daniel Farewell said many of the business plans presented are for ideas that have already begun to take shape before the competition.

“It’s not a hypothetical case competition,” Farewell, Comm ’13, said. “Most of our top 16 is in the process of launching.”

The competition has seen its share of finalists who have gone on to achieve success in business ventures after graduation, such as a customized lanyard-making business called BuildMyLanyard which has secured clients like Telus Mobility since its creation two years ago.

Applicants typically come from business, engineering or computer science backgrounds.

Farewell said entrepreneurship is a fairly small field.

“It’s hard to track because people become entrepreneurs at all points of their careers,” Farewell said. “It’s not a subject area, it just means starting a business, running with an idea.”

The competition is entirely funded by sponsors, with the 16 finalist teams only having to cover their own transportation and accommodation costs.

Last year, the competition secured a five-year partnership with Queen’s School of Business MBA program. Other backers include the Queen’s Centre for Business Venturing and corporate sponsors like Manulife Financial.

Once the winners are awarded the prize, it’s up to them to decide how they want to spend the money.

“It’s no strings attached,” Farewell said. “If they wanted to blow it all, it wouldn’t be a great business decision, but they could do it.”

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