Written by Jasmine Liu
Reviewed by Etsub Yifru
Innovation. Sustainability. Cooperation. Challenge. Circular Economy. These are a few words that describe the UpGen Bootcamp of 2019 that some of my fellow Marianopolites and I had the opportunity to participate in over the past weekend. This three-day event was organized by UpstartED, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “empower students to be creative problem-solvers who take the future by storm”.
UpGen Bootcamp is an entrepreneurship competition where students aged 12 to 18 years old get into teams of five to build a profitable and sustainable business plan. During the competition, each team member is responsible for the design, marketing, product development, sales or financing of their product. They attend interactive workshops to better understand their position and then apply their knowledge into the development of their team’s business.
The bootcamp started on Friday January 25th, at Lower Canada College. The 100 participants were first warmly welcomed in the school’s auditorium by the executive team and volunteers and then participated in engaging talks given by experts in retail innovation and the circular economy. Circular economy in sustainability is a system in which the amount of waste is minimized through sustainable initiatives such as reusing, recycling, repairing and maintenance.
After getting acquainted with their future business partners, the team members were assigned a specific case study that contextualized a fictional problem. The team had to identify the different wastes generated by the problem in day-to-day life in order to find solutions that promote sustainability and the reduction of ecological footprint.
The next day, the young entrepreneurs had to come back to Lower Canada College to resume their ideation process. Throughout the day, each team member attended workshops specific to their respective roles in the team. Then, after sharing their knowledge with the rest of the team, they worked together to build and finalize the business model of their product while preparing for the most feared – yet exciting – part of the bootcamp: Pitching their business idea in front of a panel of judges at the Shopify centre in Montreal.
On the day of the pitches, the participants’ friends and family members were present at the centre to show support. In total, 150 people were there to see the participants make their business pitches after having worked on it for 2.5 days.
After having heard the pitches of the eighteen teams, which ranged from a team with the idea of an Application that could redefine the way we keep shopping receipts to a team wanting to create multi-layered reusable diapers, the judges chose six winning teams that will have the opportunity to participate in UpStartED’s Incubator, a four-month long program that will allow participants to continue to develop their ideas under the guidance of world-leading companies.
Personally, the experience was quite challenging and very rewarding. Not only does it allow for a hands-on business experience through the encounter with difficulties of real businesses, but it also promotes teamwork to solve problems whilst focusing on making the business sustainable and one that fits into a circular economy.
Therefore, if you are open-minded, passionate about business, and ready to get out of your comfort zone, you should join Marianopolis’ new club called UpStartED, a club that organizes workshops where students can improve their entrepreneurial skills!
Lastly, stay tuned for UpGen 2020!