Nov. 3, 2021

Haskayne entrepreneurs find support and encouragement through new venture incubator

Upgrader, a brand-new initiative from the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, supports RBC Fast Pitch winners with mentorship and strategic planning

This past spring, three innovative business ventures were crowned winners at the annual RBC Fast Pitch Competition. The winning ideas were diverse and innovative in nature. A migraine solution product, a biodegradable hotel amenity kit, and a grip-training glove for rock climbing virtually pitched their ideas to a panel of judges and came out on top.

RBC Fast Pitch is a long-standing event, one that the Haskayne School of Business is well-known for across campus. Undergraduate students from ENTI 317 – Entrepreneurial Thinking hone their entrepreneurial thinking skills all semester long. The now-virtual event is a culmination of all they have learned.

For many students, what starts as a class they’re unsure about ends in an eye-opening look into the world of entrepreneurship. Problem-solving, resourcefulness, resilience, strategic thinking and brainstorming are takeaway skills for the Haskayne students.

Introducing Upgrader

The team with the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, located within Haskayne, wanted to take things one step further. They introduced Upgrader, the first of its kind in Canada, this past summer to much success and positive feedback from all involved.

Sara Canizales

Sara Canizales, fourth year Haskayne BComm student and Miggy Freeze founder.

“I loved participating in Upgrader,” says Sara Canizales. “It was lots of information and very immersive, but I’m a sponge and really enjoyed the experience. It also showed me the power of networking and people’s willingness and ability to help out new ventures.” Sara is a fourth-year international business student and the creator of Miggy Freeze, a frozen device meant to alleviate migraines.

How it works

Students, experts, Haskayne faculty members and the Calgary business community logged on virtually for three sessions over the summer. Each of the participating ventures came prepared with one problem they’d like help solving that day.

For example, one group needed advice on how to create a minimum viable product — something a business creates to show that their idea can actually be brought to life. Using Google’s Jamboard and Zoom, participants brainstorm ways to tackle the challenge. Business community members offer their expertise, advice and connections to help the founders move the idea forward. These co-creation workshops help the students achieve tangible results. The Hunter Centre collaborated with the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala to facilitate all three sessions.

Josh Fuerbringer

Josh Fuerbringer, third-year Haskayne BComm student and BioBox founder.

“Upgrader is the biggest thing to happen to me so far. I met so many people and it eventually led to our idea being accepted into another incubator program in Canmore. All because of the connections I made during the sessions,” reflects BioBox founder and third-year finance student Josh Fuerbringer. BioBox hopes to create biodegradable hotel amenity packaging.

For Terry Ross, director of the Hunter Centre, Upgrader was a chance to implement a big idea. “This program gives us a new way to support students in a strategic way. We’re connecting them with local business community mentors that really help bring their projects to life. We’re excited to expand and scale Upgrader in the coming years.”

The Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is planning for the next series of Upgrader workshops. Learn more and get involved.