By Alex Wilks, Surrey Now-Leader contributor
Twenty-seven Surrey students put their original product designs on display for a panel of judges during the recent PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs final pitch competition.
Colourful handmade dog toys, lava lamp lip gloss, mini bath bombs and squishy cupcakes — a great alternative to stress balls and fidget spinners — were just some of the designs put forth by promising inventors at SFU Surrey.
Bill Roche is the brains behind the PowerPlay program.
“Each of the individual schools that participated in this project had their own individual sale or what we call a young entrepreneur show,” Roche said. “Then we asked the teachers to just identify who were the students who really stood out and then they selected a student to come and represent their school at this event.”
PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs is a program that works to develop an entrepreneurial mindset with youth between the ages of eight to 14. The concept allows them to explore their own passions and interests while implementing a potential business venture.
Although the program has been running in B.C. for almost 20 years, Roche has recently teamed up with local entrepreneur Charles Chang in order to provide greater access to the program.
“I teamed up with Bill because he was doing this as a business before and said why don’t we take this as a non-profit and turn it into a charitable organization instead and get it out to everybody and not make the cost of the program a deterrent,” said Chang.
To prepare for the competition, students refined a product idea, developed a prototype and even did some market research to build upon their original design. They also had to find a charity to donate a portion of their profits.
“What we were seeing is these younger kids have such a spark. They’re so interested in entrepreneurship,” said Roche. “We wanted to start creating opportunities to nurture that, for them to build on the experience.”
White Rock Elementary finalist Ainslee Nellis, 11, designed an all-natural lip gloss that when turned upside down resembled the bubbles inside a lava lamp.
“When the air bubble hits the pigment it starts to fall down exactly like a lava lamp,” said an excited Nellis.
She came up with the idea because she felt that most lip glosses on the market had unhealthy ingredients.
“I thought maybe I should try making this product a little bit on my own and make it healthy.”
In the end, the judges selected 12-year-old Aodhan Braun to win the title of PowerPlay Entrepreneur of the Year – and a $250 gift card – with his invention the Handy Hand, an extender that allows you to access out-of-reach objects.
What excited Aodhan the most?
“Winning it and going over here and selling all of them as well.”
All participants received a scholarship to attend the 2017 PowerPlay Academy this summer. Prizes were also awarded for the best display, most creative invention and best communication skills.
Roche said PowerPlay aims to create opportunities for young people.
“We want them to make mistakes and we want them to get out there and experiment and try new things.”