12 highlights from our year

Helping entrepreneurs succeed

Canada’s economy is built on small businesses and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. But growing a new business is never easy, which is why Smith is working to help startups thrive.

Through the Centre for Business Venturing (CBV), Smith operates several annual new-venture competitions that provide winners with support in the form of funding and expertise. In our 2021-2022 year, these three competitions helped a number of Smith entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground:

UPstart Venture Challenge

In December 2021 four Smith-led ventures won funding to accelerate their growth during the sixth annual UPstart Venture Challenge hosted by CBV and the Queen’s Venture Network.

Kelly Thomson and Mehwish Panjwani, both BCom’16, of QUIL Packaging won the largest portion of the prize: $40,000. Based in Vancouver, QUIL provides brands with reusable and returnable packaging for shipping online orders.

"The Centre for Business Venturing investment will help us scale from our first five brands to our next 20 and help us get closer to our mission of bringing reusable packaging to every doorstep in Canada!” Thomson says.

QUIL reduces 96 per cent of packaging waste and 80 per cent of CO2 from packaging by allowing customers to drop off their empty packaging in any mailbox or in-person return location for collection, cleaning and prep for reuse. Each bag can be reused up to 20 times. 

The other UPstart winners were: 

Dare to Dream

In spring 2021, two Master of Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship students and two Commerce graduates were each awarded $15,000 through the Dare to Dream program to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Run annually by the CBV, Dare to Dream provides critical resources to increase the odds of success for founders who have recently graduated from Smith or are in their final year of study.

“Dare to Dream has been a catalyst for many entrepreneurs over the years to stick with starting and growing their venture when a decision to take a corporate job may have been the easier option,” says JP Shearer, associate director of the CBV.

This 20221 Dare to Dream recipients were: 

In addition to $15,000 in funding, each Dare to Dream recipient also received access to coaching and mentorship, office space and network connections through the program.

“The Dare to Dream award will help us bring our research to life. With these funds, we will be able to buy ingredients, produce our first full-scale batch of food and complete final testing before releasing it to our doggie market,” noted Hope Pet Food’s Dunn.

Kinnear New Venture Competition

In spring 2021, a Smith Commerce student’s space solution for the remote workforce won the Paul and Tom Kinnear New Venture Competition.

Nikola Cugalj, BCom’22, received $10,000 to develop his business, EcoPod, which designs and builds four-season backyard studios that can be used as home offices, workout spaces, music studios and more. The idea was born out of the course Comm 405 and developed into a minimum viable product before the first model was sold.

“We will use the money to create new and beautiful designs, market our product and brand, and invest in our e-commerce capabilities,” Cugalj says. The Ottawa-based company currently offers three customizable models, and another two are coming soon.

Since its creation in 2008, the Kinnear New Venture Competition has supported 18 Smith undergraduates and their entrepreneurial ventures. These funds are critical at the early stage of business and increase the odds of success.