Six pitches. One prize. A spring day in Edmonton.

BoostR Stage YEG March 23, 2016 NAIT

Six pitches. One prize. A spring day in Edmonton.

On Wednesday night, six Albertan entrepreneur teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of expert judges in front of a crowd full of supporters. They had a mission: to convince the judges their idea had the most merit, for a chance to win a $1000 cash prize to fund their business.

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Their secondary mission was to share their story with the audience, which was full of potential future customers.

House of Sew pitched their idea of teaching people to sew and make their own clothes. Orbis Sports wants to help people get fit, play and have fun—with the help of giant bubble suits.

Biota Balance has developed yogurt for dogs, which helps provide healthy probiotics for our pets. Host Julian Faid sampled one on stage and gave the taste a review of “aggressive.”IMG_0193.JPG

Calgary Heritage Roasting Company provides the tools for Albertans to roast their own coffee. Karma Concerts is a non-profit that puts on concerts for children and raises money for children’s charities at the same time.

Fitset Pass provides one pass to lots of fitness studios, so you don’t have to buy several passes and can try many different options.

In the end, it was Calgary Heritage Roasting Company that won the judges’ favour.

Missed this event? The next BoostR Stage event will be in Calgary on April 15.

Success Story- Red Cup Distillery

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Rob DeGroot, founder and owner of Red Cup Distillery, likes to describe his new business using a question that to him, doesn’t need to be answered.

“What else would you rather be doing than making liquor?”

When DeGroot, who lives near Vegreville, first had the idea to start a distillery, he was trying to answer a similar question after leaving his last job: what would he rather be doing?

“We thought we were going to get the fancy German still and buy the Fisher-Price kit with the laptop, where they give you all the recipes. But we couldn’t afford that. Then my wife in her passing wisdom says, why don’t you build your own still? It was the smartest decision we made,” DeGroot said.

So he went to his local ATB branch and asked for help in setting up the business and financing it. His contact there put him in touch with a small business expert in the Calgary office, and she suggested he try Alberta BoostR, ATB’s rewards-based crowdfunding platform, to help with some startup financing.

“Participating in BoostR forced me to confirm my product and confirm support, and helped me to focus my marketing efforts and communication to the broader public.

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Rob DeGroot Winner of the Edmonton BoostR Stage Event

 

“It was the best thing we did. It was basically priceless because we met people and began a journey with the public. We wouldn’t have had it any other way. If I didn’t do BoostR, I’d open my doors one day and say, please come, and hope people did. This way, I pre-sold more than 200 bottles.”

DeGroot participated in a BoostR Stage event in Edmonton, where he had to present his idea to a crowd of Edmontonians and pitch his business for a chance to win $1000 from a panel of expert judges. He won.

“It was scary when I won, very scary. I thought, please, I hope my fly is up,” DeGroot said.

“The judges said, we believe this brand can be around the world, we believe this can be the next Alberta beef. That was humbling.”

DeGroot is steadfast in his resolve that Red Cup Distillery’s moonshine be Alberta grown and produced.

“We do not add chemicals, we bring in raw grain, that’s it. It’s from Vegreville, I don’t go to Scotland for this, China for that, it’s from Vegreville, literally the way grandpa did it,” DeGroot said.

“That’s what the moonshine’s like, I can’t describe it any other way. We’re making it the same way as the way grandma made bread. A little more of this, a little more of that, wait a little longer.”

Red Cup Distillery moonshine is available directly from DeGroot at his place in Vegreville, and they’re working on making it available at some local shops and restaurants. So far, Boston Pizza in Vegreville is carrying it, as well as Kitchen by Brad, a culinary school in Edmonton. But he encourages anyone who’s interested to come out for a tasting. He also recommends a couple of books, to help people understand the roots of his business better: Booze: When Whiskey Ruled the West, and Red Lights on the Prairies, both by James H. Gray.

 

Success Story- Prairie Noodle

 

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At Prairie Noodle’s first pop-up event in Edmonton, co-founder Arden Tse expected maybe 50 people to show up.

“But we sold out 100 bowls 15 minutes before we opened. And we had to turn another 70 or 80 people away.”

Prairie Noodle Shop, now open as a restaurant on 124 Street in Edmonton, serves ramen. Tse calls it fusion, because the Japanese soup recipes are made with local ingredients and based on Alberta food traditions. But, as he explains, that makes it all the more authentic.

“In Japan, wherever you go, there’s over 20 regions where they have their own specialty broth because it takes on the flavour and agriculture of wherever it comes from.

“So we decided to do something local and stay true to the spirit of what ramen is,” Tse said.

Since that first pop-up prepared Prairie Noodle’s signature dish, the prairie pork ramen, its popularity has only grown.

“People took to it. We put up our reservation system for pop ups online, on Event Brite, and they would sell out in less than five minutes. Literally, if you blinked, you missed it. I remember one customer telling me on Twitter, she said, I literally went to the bathroom, came back, and the tickets were sold out,” Tse said.

Having such great success with their pop-ups gave Tse and his partners the confidence to open a restaurant. So they started fundraising, with ATB’s help, and started a campaign on Alberta BoostR.

“BoostR gave us huge exposure, to a lot of people who weren’t online. Because the thing is, our presence to that point was kind of an underground, you had to be on social media to know about us,” Tse said.

“Just before we opened, we did a media release with the ATB team here and the Minister of Economic Development. It was an amazing opportunity. Wellington Holbrook was great, he’s been such a great supporter of ours.”

Prairie Noodle Shop opened just before Christmas.

“It’s had its challenges. But I think that’s what real entrepreneurship is about. Entrepreneurs overcome. And we have to adapt. And we have to get back up after we’ve been knocked down. Because it’ll happen time and again,” Tse said.

Ironically, one of Prairie Noodle’s biggest challenges was how popular it was before it even opened. So in its first week, attendance surpassed expectations yet again.

“We were overwhelmed. That first week we were not prepared. And so the food was inconsistent,” Tse said.

So Tse and his team took a break over Christmas and worked hard to figure things out. They made the changes necessary to get their food back to their high standards and their systems in place to deal with the high demand. And they succeeded.

“I have a saying: the only way out is through. And so far, so good. It’s been a pretty good January and we’ve got some great plans for the spring and summer. Different food menu items. We just want to come up with a new fresh experience so we’re always going to be adding things, changing things up a little bit,” Tse said.

The goal is to “provide Edmontonians with just a great new different experience, something fun, a night out, and that’s what we want to be known for, just a fun place to come,” Tse says. And so far—so good.