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“The enthusiasm and confidence level in the room was just so exciting to see.” 

That was how Christine Wall describes the presentations of participants in the inaugural version of the Immigrant Women Entrepreneur Pitch Competition sponsored by the Immigrant Service Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)

Wall, a business counsellor and trainer with the association, says there were nine women who signed up to compete for a $4,000 prize package that included a headshot package for promotion and a training session. The winner was due to be announced in mid-May. 

Wall says the competition is unique in that the judging panel were also all immigrant women, with the goal of providing a safe, supportive, and empowering environment for participants. The types of companies pitched include a food market, food and beverage company, multi-media company, fashion house, Nigerian cuisine, Medika Beauty Institute, a production company, 3D plastic printer recycling technology, and a learning and training agency. 

“They were in all stages of development from ideas to established companies,” Wall says. 

The competition was open to immigrant women who were registered as clients of the association, have a Canadian language benchmark level of 5+, and have at least 51 per cent ownership in a business that started less than three years ago. 

Prior to the competition, all of the participants received six hours of training helping to perfect their pitching technique, including body language, tone of voice, and delivery. Wall says the feedback received from the participants was all positive and “everybody viewed it as a valuable learning experience.” 

That sentiment is representative of the entire competition, Wall says, and the positive feedback and supportive environment translated into a valuable learning experience for everyone involved.  

While it may sound like a cliché, Wall says not only were all of the participants winners because of what they learned, but the provincial economy will also see dividends as these entrepreneurs establish and expand their businesses and hire workers. 

“The whole idea is to grow entrepreneurial opportunities for immigrant women,'” she says. “Great ideas need support and over the course of the competition you could feel the confidence of the participants growing with the applause and support they received from the judges and their fellow participants.” 

Wall says the competition is designed to be a complement to a 10-week immigrant women entrepreneurship program that began in mid-April and continued every Tuesday until June 14. That program covered such topics as business plan writing, market research, regulations and legal issues, sales and marketing, online presence, financial management, and networking. 

The judge panel included Ute Fiedler, a teacher at the School of Business and Creative Industries at Nova Scotia Community College and founder of Burst The Continuum Consulting Inc.; Siba Saoud, a real estate agent who moved to Nova Scotia from Syria 15 years ago; Shivani Dhamija, owner of Shivani’s Kitchen; and Christine Alvarez, supervising team lead of the Business Team at ISANS.  

Wall says the event exceeded all expectations and the hope is to make it an annual affair. While all participants in the inaugural competition were from Halifax, she says the hope is to expand the event to other parts of the province. 

“One of the participants and one of the judges took part virtually, so we do have the capacity to do that,” Wall says. 

Editor’s Note: Since the writing of this article, the Immigrant Women Entrepreneur Pitch Competition has concluded, selecting Lurinda Swanepoel‘s Medika Beauty Institute as the winning pitch. Swanepoel says she will use the win to help her with an e-commerce website and to purchase new retail boxes. For more on the competition’s results, visit:  ISANS website 

Andy Walker

Andy Walker has been a journalist in PEI for over 30 years. After a career working for both PEI's daily newspapers, covering everything from the provincial legislature to hockey games, he has been a full-time freelance writer since 1997. Andy has been editor of the Island Farmer, a biweekly publication which covers the agriculture scene, since 2000. He and his wife, Angela, have four adult children and they reside in Cornwall.

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