TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 02/27/13 -- Four socially-innovative companies formed by University of Waterloo students are among 10 finalists vying for a $20,000 prize in Ontario Centres of Excellence's Social Enterprise Student Competition.
"This group of finalists is evidence that Ontario's next generation of entrepreneurs are looking beyond traditional business models to create companies that benefit people and places in different ways," said OCE president and CEO Dr. Tom Corr.
The finalists (a combination of individual and group efforts) were selected from more than 40 entries and represent a wide range of socially-innovative products and services. Four of the finalists will win $20,000 each to help further develop their social enterprise.
"These young entrepreneurs are showing their commitment to finding innovative solutions to some of the more pressing issues facing Ontarians today," said Reza Moridi, Ontario's Minister of Research and Innovation.
In the first round of the two-round contest, entrants - students and recent graduates (no more than three years past graduation) from publicly-funded Ontario colleges and universities - had to submit a business concept with a social mission in the form of a three-minute video uploaded to YouTube.
The 10 finalists chosen by an internal review panel will now be paired with an OCE business mentor to create a business plan which will be pitched to an expert panel of judges in Toronto on March 21. At that event, the top four ideas will be awarded $20,000 each in order to assist in the further development of their social enterprise.
"The quality of the entries meant our review panel had some tough decisions to make when it came to narrowing the field," said Denise Brennan, Manager of OCE's Social Innovation Program. "In the end we came up with a group of finalists who collectively capture the spirit of this contest."
This is the second year for the competition. Last year, in a slightly different format, University of Toronto Civil Engineering PhD candidate Heather Wray took the top prize of $25,000 for her business Rooftop Gardens Inc. The burgeoning start-up strives to transform unused spaces into centres of urban food production. The company develops, sells, and installs modular and customizable gardens to enable vegetable production year-round in urban areas.
This year's finalists are:
Emily Peat, University of Waterloo
EcoPlace Organics supports local certified organic farms by improving local food distribution networks. The business was created by 21-year-old Emily Peat from London, Ontario, a 4th year civil engineering student at the University of Waterloo. EcoPlace Organics is building a grocery store on wheels to sell local organic foods to a niche market of young families.
Hamoon Ekhtiari, University of Waterloo
With: Sam Saad, Richard Steiner, Chris Barry
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