Barrie's Henry Bernick centre hosts Dragon’s Den-style competition | Chickapea Pasta USA - Organic, Gluten-Free Pasta made from Chickpeas and Lentils

Barrie Advance

If you have dreamed of pitching a business idea to Dragon’s Den, the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre has the competition for you.

The centre, at Georgian College in Barrie, has launched the second-annual exC!te Experience, during which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business idea, invention or product improvement to a panel of local judges.

“It’s a friendly Dragon’s Den. It’s all positive and supportive feedback,” said Sara Bentham, project co-ordinator with the entrepreneurship centre.

The competition has no age limit and young entrepreneurs between ages 18 and 29 are encouraged to sign up, Bentham said.

And all you need is an idea.

Last year’s winner, Shelby Taylor, pitched a line of dried, organic baby foods. She has since launched Chickapea Pasta, an organic, gluten-free pasta made from chickpeas.

“It’s gone from nothing but an idea to a real full-fledged business,” Taylor said.

Taylor joined the competition for the free advice.

“I had nothing to lose. That’s a good way for people to look at it,” she said.

But there’s a lot to gain. Taylor attracted three investors from Georgian Angel Network and has been awarded grant money.

“I’ve been able to get all the information I need to actually start and grow the business,” she said.

Before pitching to the judges, exC!te Experience finalists will take part in a free pitch workshop.

“We give them some tools to really develop their pitch, so if you’re a beginner you don’t have to feel nervous,” Bentham said.

Twelve finalists will present their ideas to a panel of local entrepreneurs, private investors, financial experts, patent experts and Georgian College alumni in Barrie Nov. 18. The winner takes home $2,500 and each participant will leave with a binder full of personalized advice, Bentham said.

“It’s a playbook of what your next steps are for your business,” she said.

All services at the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre are available free of charge.

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