Mala the Brand wins top prize at SFU’s largest entrepreneurship competition
By Vivien Lee
Mala the Brand is an environmentally conscious start-up that helps plant a tree with each purchase of its hand-poured, eco-friendly soy candles. Mala the Brand won the top prize in the ninth annual Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition, taking home a $35,000-prize package. Founder Melody Lim, a Communications graduate, competed against Simon Fraser University’s brightest entrepreneurs in a series of pitch-offs to claim the top title.
Set amidst the disruption of COVID-19, this year’s reconfigured Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition reflected the spirit of entrepreneurship with resilient, innovative solutions from the university community. Pitches were modified so competing ventures could prepare for and deliver micro presentations online with live Q&A.
Venture Prize, presented by SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection, is the largest entrepreneurship competition at the university. Competitors are filtered into two streams: the Idea Stream and the Venture Stream. The former celebrates ventures in the ideation stage and the latter is designed for fully operating businesses. Competitors faced-off in two intensive rounds of pitches to a panel of industry judges to win the Top Venture and Top Idea prizes respectively.
Open to SFU staff, faculty, students and recent alumni, this year’s competition attracted a record-breaking 59 entries, with applicants representing all eight SFU faculties. The 2020 competitors are diverse, from social enterprises supporting agricultural workers to artificial intelligence companies creating aerial robots.
Top Venture winner, Lim creates each candle by hand and commits to being as sustainable as possible. Her social enterprise partners with Tree Era to plant trees in North America through each candle purchase.
“Winning Venture Prize is a game changer and will allow me to scale my business,” says Lim. “This was my first time pitching my company and I learned how to integrate what I personally stand for into the values of my business.
“My goal is to provide consumers with an earth-friendly alternative to the current toxic candles in the market.”
GameSeta took the Top Idea prize, winning a $5,000 cash prize and entry into the Venture Connection incubator program.
GameSeta aims to integrate electronic sports (eSports) programs into high schools. eSports are growing rapidly in Canada and an organized program can prepare students to adapt to new technologies and the future of work.
“I have always been passionate about video games because they helped me acquire problem solving skills,” says Tawanda Masawi, co-founder of GameSeta. “Our company goal is to enable students with a passion for gaming to gain the same recognition that other sports categories provide to their participants.”
The Venture Prize competition reflects Venture Connection’s commitment to support early-stage businesses and innovative entrepreneurship in the broader SFU community.
WINNERS OF THE VENTURE PRIZE AWARDS ARE:
Venture Prize award: Mala the Brand
Idea Prize award: GameSeta
Idea Prize first runner-up: Elemeno
Idea Prize second runner-up: The Kelp Collective
Top Local Impact award: Luv The Grub
Top Digital Platform award: LumenWire
Top Research and Development award: Optican Systems
Female Founder award: Viridiana Perez, NANOSentinel
Social Impact award: SPARK Foundation
SFU Alumni Founder award: Labora
SFU Work Integrated Learning award: Rochelle Prasad, SPARK Foundation
Since 2008, Coast Capital Savings has been a key partner of Venture Connection in supporting entrepreneurial excellence at SFU.
“Although it looks a bit different this year, Coast Capital is excited to be a partner in the SFU Venture Connection program,” says Maureen Young, director, community leadership at Coast Capital Savings. “This partnership is one of the tangible ways that Coast Capital demonstrates our commitment to investing in initiatives that help youth achieve what is important in their lives and build a strong financial future. We are delighted to recognize the inspiring young entrepreneurs and future change makers of our communities and empower them to reach their full potential.”
Says Joy Johnson, SFU vice-president, research and international, "I would like to congratulate this year’s applicants and award winners. The innovations showcased at the ninth annual Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize exemplify SFU’s commitment to helping our students and researchers move their ideas into action to solve problems that matter."
"We are thankful for Coast Capital Savings’ ongoing participation and commitment to the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection Program, since 2008," adds Johnson.