Community Futures Sunrise recently awarded an unprecedented total of $4,300 in prize money to students in southeast Saskatchewan in the 17th annual YouthBiz competition.

The contest, which is open to students in Grades 6 through 12, is an opportunity for students to develop their business ideas, build financial literacy skills, and showcase their creativity with practical applications like web design and other digital material. YouthBiz encourages students to explore the business world by developing skills needed to be an entrepreneur, by writing about a business idea they’ve imagined or already operated, evaluating the potential profitability of their venture.

Whether in traditional, home school or other alternative school programs, 286 students from 13 schools in the region participated this year in the contest.

A total of 86 students from 13 different schools were awarded recognition, out of 286 who entered, with first place winners receiving $500, second place receiving $300, and third place receiving $150. 

In the Grades 6 to 8 category, first place was awarded to Fast Feet Studio at Carievale School; second place went to Xis Crafts at St. Michael School in Weyburn; and third place to Picture Perfect Photography at Midale Central School. The Classroom Award was given to the Grade 6 class at Assiniboia Park Elementary School, led by Mr. Butz.

In the Grades 9 to 12 category, first place was awarded to Top Shelf Sticks & Skates at Midale Central School; second place went to Cactus Cut Vintage at the Carnduff Education Complex; and third place to the Book Nook at the Carnduff Education Complex. Best Business Plan was awarded to Sweets & Treats Co, a Junior Achievement Class at Weyburn Comprehensive School.

Achievement Awards were also given to students whose entries displayed outstanding qualities worthy of special recognition, including Website Awards for Janae & Billie, High Notes Music Store; Dayton, Ur Wood, Ur Art; Isla & Zachary, Designers Den; Alex & Melanie, Violets Are Blue; Everleigh & Dakota, Mystic Isle Mini Golf; Hunter & Ashton, Hyper-Tech; Kali & Cana, The Book Nook; Aisley, Tiny Bites; Alyah, Frozen Treats; and to Ethan & Gabriel, Go Groceries Go. Most Engaging Audio Commercial was credited to Weston & Dylan, The Fun Game Store and Arcade; the Greatest Marketing & Slogan to  Lyric, Cover Up; the Social Responsibility Award went ot Summer & Clara, Cactus Cut Vintage; the Best Brochure to Liam & Logan, PF Cooking Machines; and the Best Social Media was awarded to Everleigh & Dakota, Mystic Isle Mini Golf.

"Most of the students do things individually or with one or two partners, but there were a couple larger groups that did receive prizes as well," shared Andria Brady, General Manager with CF Sunrise. 

"Every year it amazes us, the ideas that these students come up with," she commented. "Some of the entries are actually businesses that are already operating, and sometimes those students enter the competition the first year and then the next time they enter, we find out that they actually did start that business similar business after."

Brady said getting their feet wet with this competition before actually running their business is exciting to see.

"It also really helps the the teachers because it meets the curriculum requirements that they have as well," she noted. "We have independent judges that judge all the applications and come up with the winners, and then some of the feedback is provided to the teachers to share with the with the students. So it's kind of a win-win on all on all counts."

In recent years, the digital world has become an important part, so website development is a competition requirement.

"The minimum requirement was that they had to complete a business plan worksheet and they had to create a basic website," she said. "Lots of those entries went above and beyond to created extra marketing material, created very in-depth, detailed business plans, their income statements were very good. Lots of research went into what their expenses could be and what their income could look like."

Brady explained that while most of the businesses are just hypothetical, the students displayed a high level of research and creative effort. Some even created logos, and developed web sites containing multiple eye-catching and appealing pages showcasing their products. In fact, some of CF Sunrise's GoDigital program consultants were chosen to judge the websites specifically because they are always looking at websites and social media pages. 

"Attention to detail was what set the winners apart in terms of their plan, their worksheets or their cash flow worksheet and their website."

The Sweets & Treats Co. were given the best business plan because theirs was, "one of the more detailed ones that we did see in the in the 9 to 12 category. They were a larger group for sure, and also a business that is actually operating. So that one stood out."

"Entrepreneurship is still alive and well within the youth in our corner of the province, and that's really great to see because 10 and 20 years down the road, it's those young people now that are going to be running businesses. So it's good to see that they still have that creative spirit and those great ideas."

With so many of the competitors working within their classrooms on their businesses, Brady noted they do connect with the schools and consider the teachers important mentors. They also connect with home-schoolers, as, "there's a large contingent of home school students in the region."

Brady gave a shout-out to local Xis Crafts out of St. Michael School, who is operating the business. "She's got a great little business going there and I'm sure we'll see great things from her in the years ahead."

She said these kinds of students have them considering, along with other additional programs, possibly implementing a category focused on businesses already in operation.

"We're also considering possibly having a category for those who want to try and launch their business and offering a micro grant as well," she shared. "So we're kind of looking to expand the program next year to make it bigger and better."

Since the competition began 17 years ago, more than 3,200 young people in southeast Saskatchewan have had the opportunity to discover the world of small business, and Brady said they couldn't award the prize money without their 'amazing sponsors'.

The gold-level sponsors were the Weyburn Credit Union and the Radius Credit Union, as well as ISC (Information Services Corporation); the silver-level sponsors were Affinity Credit Union and SaskTel; and the bronze-level sponsor Cornerstone Credit Union.

"Credit unions have certainly always been supportive and great partners of ours," she shared. "We'll be reaching out to sponsors over the summer and early fall and we'll certainly be marketing to the teachers."

She added any students and parents interested in next year's competition can feel free to reach out to their office at any. time to ensure they are kept in the loop once it launches in September.

"It'll be exciting to see what comes in our 18th year."  

Find the YouthBiz web page HERE.