Original Published on Sep 30, 2022 at 08:36

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Westman entrepreneurs will get a chance to share their business ideas and network with sector counterparts at the seventh “What’s the Big Idea?” event in Neepawa on Oct. 13.

The event, which was put on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, isn’t just open to people from the town of Neepawa, but for entrepreneurs from all over western Manitoba.

Entrepreneurs can showcase their business ideas in a trade-show style setup in the morning, and hear from speakers from local organizations and businesses that have a vested interest in fostering entrepreneurship.

Participants also explain their business ideas to a panel of judges in what is called the “Pitching Parlour,” with a chance to win up to $40,000 in cash and other prizes.

Every entrepreneur, no matter their experience or background, is encouraged to sign up for the event, said Marilyn Crewe, the Town of Neepawa’s economic development officer.

“They should just give me a call,” Crewe said, adding that she helps the entrepreneurs develop their business pitches and meet people that can help them reach their goals.

“I think that … this gives me the opportunity to put it in front of people and let them know that support is available to them,” Crewe said.

Many rural communities struggle to have a flourishing business sector, Crewe added.

“This [event] offers support for rural business startups.”

One of last year’s participants, an entrepreneur from Shilo, said that although she was nervous about pitching her business at last year’s “What’s the Big Idea?” event, she’s incredibly glad she did.

“It was definitely very intimidating, especially the whole pitch part of it,” said Elizabeth Morrow, owner of Butter Believe It, a business that sells fresh, handmade butters out of the Food Rescue Grocery Store in Brandon.

“But all in all, it was an absolutely wonderful experience.”

Making connections and meeting people who would become future customers was the icing on the cake, Morrow added.

Since 2015, a total of $57,800 has been awarded to support 39 businesses throughout Westman, Crewe said.

“These businesses are populating our main streets and bringing their products and services to market locally, provincially and nationally,” she said.

The deadline to register is Oct. 6, and the event itself is free and open to the public. Lunch and coffee will be provided.

The event will take place Neepawa’s Royal Canadian Legion No. 23.

This item reprinted with permission from   Brandon Sun   Brandon, Manitoba

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