newsBy contributor Drew McLachlan

1011230_251405015030502_1321257942_nVIU will be hosting its first-ever Business Plan Competition, culminating in a “Dragon’s Den-style” competition which coordinator Ken Hammer hopes will light the flame for Nanaimo’s entrepreneur community.

The final event will see 10 teams of student entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of five judges, competing for the grand prize of $2k to help kick-start their businesses, with runner-up prizes ranging from $500 to $1250, donated by community organizations. The entrepreneurs will be divided into two categories: one for students taking an entrepreneurship class in the business, tourism, and hospitality programs, and an “open” category for all VIU students. The event takes place November 28 at 3 pm, in bldg. 250, rm. 125, and is free and open to the public.

Hammer, an MBA and Management instructor, said that despite seeing plenty of creative entrepreneurs go through VIU, the small business platform in Nanaimo sends many en route to bigger centres like Vancouver. He hopes that the competition can help shine the spotlight on growing support organizations like the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) and Innovation Island (two sponsors of the event).

“I see it really bringing to the forefront what already exists—bright, motivated, and energetic students,” Hammer said. “It’s just a way to recognize, encourage, and promote student creativity and innovation. So I feel as if it’s a part of something bigger that’s happening, and that’s helping us to develop a culture and some support systems for students who want to create their own future.”

Hammer said he hopes the competition will become an annual affair, and despite getting off to a quick start, he hopes this year’s event will pique the interest of students with ideas but little business knowledge and build momentum for next year’s competition.

“This year we’re appealing most to people who have thought about these things and are down the path,” Ham- mer said. “Next year it might be different. We hope that students might start putting their ideas together in spring, and we can run workshops for those who aren’t taking an [entrepreneurship] class.”

For more details on the VIU Business Plan Competition, visit the Startup Nanaimo website.

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