Social Enterprise Start-Up Weekend brings out student business ideas

CanCovery team members Andrew Newton (middle) and Jorge Siqueira (right) accept the grand prize at ncTakeOff's Social Enterprise Start-up Weekend from Meridian's Matt Goch

A business initiative dedicated to helping cancer survivors return to everyday life following recovery was the winning pitch at this past weekend’s Social Enterprise Start-up event.

Hosted by the College’s entrepreneurship hub, ncTakeOff, and sponsored by Meridian Credit Union, the contest was held March 9 to 11 at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus.

Seven teams of participating students were given 48 hours to come up with a business idea around this year’s social enterprise theme, forming a business model, and pitching them to a panel of judges, including executive director of Niagara Connects Mary Wiley, business consultant Sean Polden, director of operations at Innovate Niagara N’ora Kalb, and director of small business at Meridian Credit Union Shaun Adams.

Teams also had access to industry professionals who served as mentors, helping the teams to build their pitch before their presented to judges Sunday afternoon.

The duo of second year Health and Fitness Promotion students Andrew Newton and Jorge Siqueira wound up with top marks for CanCovery, their pitch for a fitness app that make it easier for cancer survivors to make the transition back to everyday life.

For Newton and Siqueira, the project hit close to home – both have family members who have battled cancer. “we know how difficult it is for them, as well as the rest of the family,” said Newton. They also drew on their experiences studying with Health and Fitness Promotion instructor Jodi Steele, who has extensive experience working with cancer patients. “Having personal experience, and listening to Jodi talk about the hardships of cancer survivors, all that motivated us to want to help as many cancer survivors as we can.”

Newton and Siqueira received a prize of $1,000 cash as well as professional development tools to support their start-up. they will also be automatically advanced to the second stage of the Ignite Pitch Series Competition which will be held on April 4.

“The overall experience was incredible,” said Siqueira. “It was our first time ever doing a pitch in front of a crowd of judges, students, and the community. To work under such a short period of time was tough, but it was also great experience that we can bring into the real world.”

Following the Social Enterprise Start-up Weekend, the second stage of the Ignite Pitch Series- Pitch Perfect event will be held at Niagara College on April 18. The second pitch event, in turn, gives the winner a chance to advance to the Ignite Niagara community pitch competition, sponsored by Meridian Credit Union, where participants compete for a $10,000 prize and a bundle of business services valued at $30,000. Six finalists will be chosen to pitch at an evening event in May 2018.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit




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