4th annual Yukon Innovation Prize winners say they want to disrupt fur industry

This year's winners of the fourth annual Yukon Innovation Prize for social entrepreneurship say they want to turn the fur industry upside down.

Yukon Fur Real has now won $60K from the prize plus a $10K finalist award

Lisa Preto (left) and Misha Donohoe hold the $60,000 cheque after winning the Yukon Innovation prize for social entrepreneurship for their Yukon Fur Real project proposal. (Mike Rudyk/CBC )

This year's winners of the fourth annual Yukon Innovation Prize for social entrepreneurship say they want to turn the fur industry upside down.

Kelly Milner and her team, Yukon Fur Real, say they hope to grow the fur industry in the Yukon and connect trappers and artisans with the public.

"It's really exciting to be winning the innovation prize for something that is really about the Yukon's oldest industry — when you think of it that way, I think it's been really interesting and exciting," said Milner.

She said her team is looking at doing something different with the industry.

"Basically, we are taking on the Hudson's Bay Company when we are talking about who our competition is. We are taking on a 400-year-old industry, disrupting it and doing something different."

What does the future hold? 

The team now has $60,000 from the innovation prize plus the $10,000 finalist award to get their social entrepreneurship business running.

Trapper and member of the team, Lisa Preto, said she wants to buy pelts from local trappers and help artisans create fur products that can be sold to consumers.

Yukon Fur Real receive their prize money on Friday at the Yukon College Ayamdigut campus in Whitehorse. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

"We won't actually have a brick-and-mortar shop, we will go more for pop-up shops," she said.

"Perhaps with partners we will pick up the furs directly from trappers, send them out to tanning and then [do] the actual delivery of goods to the public."

According to a press release from Yukon College, Yukon Fur Real was chosen as the winner because of the project's rural focus and its potential to disrupt the existing fur market and revive a traditional economy.

"Economic diversification and innovation is key to a vibrant Yukon economy," Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai said in a statement.

"I am proud to see projects like Yukon Fur Real being recognized, and given the chance to make positive changes in the lives of all Yukoners."

The four finalists each received $10,000 to support their projects. (Mike Rudyk/CBC )

There were 29 submissions for the prize this year, four of which were short-listed. The three other finalists each received $10,000.

"Yukoners are incredibly creative in crafting inventive solutions to northern challenges," Harry Borlase, director of Cold Climate Innovation at Yukon College said in a statement, adding that this was a very competitive year.

Last year's winners were Elise McCormack and Joanne Sherrard of Dawson City with Aurum Birch Sap Skincare. The two are now working toward selling skincare products made from local birch sap. The company's website is under construction and currently says "Great things are coming…"

The prize was created by the Cold Climate Innovation centre and the territorial Department of Economic Development.