At the end of August, I had the honour of being a Mega Mind judge in the Jr. Economic Club Bay Street Boot Camp Entrepreneurial Challenge.
The goal of the Jr. Economic Club is to teach Canadian youth about finance basics and personal money management. The five-day Bay Street Boot Camp financial literacy course concluded with the Entrepreneurial Challenge, where 40 Ontario high-school students pitched their business plans to a panel of expert “Mega Minds” who questioned them on their ideas. Other Mega Minds included The Honourable Senator Don Meredith, Minister of State (Finance) Ken Sorenson, newly appointed Financial Literacy Leader Jane Rooney, as well as other industry and government leaders.
I was really impressed with how enthusiastic, creative and bright these young entrepreneurs were. I threw questions their way in an effort to determine how viable their business plans were and they met the challenge head-on. My favourite question was “How will you make money?” The responses were interesting!
During my day as a Mega Mind, I heard a variety of interesting pitch ideas. A few highlights include:
- a grocery shopping and meal planning smartphone app,
- an online clothing store for up and coming designers,
- a portable battery powered by wind and solar energy, ideal for vehicles and camping, and
- a bracelet for the deaf and hearing impaired that detects warning sounds (i.e. fire alarms) and notifies the user though vibrations and colour changes.
My personal favourite was a product called AirCharge, an innovative smartphone case that converts radio waves to electricity to charge your mobile device on-the-go. This was my #1 choice for a few reasons. If this product was to make it to market, I would buy it myself. It meets a realistic need and is a niche market that has yet to be satisfied. The presentation the two students gave was exceptional. They played to their strengths, with one student giving a dynamic and energetic presentation and his partner fielding all the technical questions. In fact, it reminded me of the presentation dynamics between Apple visionary Steve Jobs and his second in command, Steve Wozniak. Very impressive for those so young!
I was amazed by the ingenuity and confidence these students demonstrated. If all Canadian youth were extended this same opportunity, I believe the state of financial literacy in Canada would be much brighter.
This experience really resonates with my belief in the importance of financial literacy and it aligns with Sun Life Financial’s mission to help Canadians achieve lifetime financial security. It is critical that we provide the next generation with the knowledge and tools to be successful in business and in personal finances, and organizations like the Jr. Economic Club are able to help make this a reality.
-Rick Headrick, President, Sun Life Global Investments.