North

Birch water cream, 'smart' ski poles, send Yukoners to national competition

More than a dozen entrepreneurs pitched their businesses to an audience in Whitehorse. They were vying for a chance to move on to a national competition next month in Toronto and an international competition next winter.

Inventors and entrepreneurs made their pitch Friday to go to national competition

Winners of Friday's pitch competition in Whitehorse. They'll bring their ideas to a national pitch competition in Toronto, next month. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A Dawson City-based cosmetics company that uses birch water and a Whitehorse-based ski pole designer were among the winners on Friday at a pitch competition for northern entrepreneurs.

More than a dozen entrepreneurs pitched their businesses before a voting audience in Whitehorse, as well as a panel of five judges including Commissioner of Yukon Angelique Bernard. They were vying for a chance to move on to a national competition next month in Toronto, and an international competition next winter.

Business owners had three minutes to make their case. The competitors heard a bugle if they exceed the time.

Several similar events have been held elsewhere in Canada.

It's part of Pitch@Palace, a competition founded by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. International finalists pitch their businesses at St. James Palace in London, U.K., in December.

Four businesses were selected on Friday to move on to the national competition, including Dawson-based Aurum Skincare.

Elise McCormick and Joanne Sherrard pitch their business, Aurum Skincare, at a competition for entrepreneurs, in Whitehorse. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The company was launched in November, selling topical skincare products such as birch serums and birch masks that are made using locally-sourced birch water. The two women behind the business won the $60,000 Yukon Innovation Prize in 2017.

"What we try to do in our bio-fermentation which is kind of the magic ingredient for us ... is to emphasize the prebiotic ingredients in skincare, which is really healthy for your skin, for moisturization," Sherrard said. 

The two say they'd like to target higher-end brands and market their unique product. 

Another winner was Proskida, a Whitehorse-based startup company that's developed high-tech cross-country ski pole grips that have embedded electronic gear. Computer chips in the upper part of the poles record data, focusing on upper body strength and technique.

"We're really excited to get to Toronto, and we have big goals and a large vision to get out of cross-country skiing into broader endurance sport," said Alistair Smith of Proskida.

Alastair Smith, left, and Hans Fisher, are two of the founders of Proskida. Their ski pole grips include technology that can track a skiers power and efficiency. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

"So hopefully ... in Toronto we can meet with some investors who we can show how much we can get done over the next eight months, so that whenever we're ready for our next investment round, they're ready and willing to participate." 

Another winner was Apprendo, an app and computer program designed by Yukoner Camillo Rivera as a "learning gateway" to help organizations schedule training and education.

His program already has a partnership with Carleton University. Rivera believes it has the potential to simplify registration for courses and training in large organizations. 

The fourth winner was iMIRGE, an Ontario-based startup founded by two Ontario neurosurgeons, who flew to Whitehorse for Friday's pitch competition. They designed a device that's described as a "GPS system for surgeons" — it uses an image guidance system to improve surgical accuracy.

Fourteen projects were pitched in all. Other contestants included Tagish resident Bob Sharp who has built and sold more than 90 insulated greenhouse kits through his home business, Tracey Jacobs from Whitehorse whose company makes a light watercraft called a Mosquito Jet Craft, and Whitehorse resident Joel Brennan who already has patents on a type of spring-loaded paddle which he uses to propel himself as he cruises on his longboard.

iMIRGE is a startup created by 2 Ontario surgeons who designed a device to improve surgical accuracy. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

With files from Philippe Morin

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