Pitch perfect – Two teams earn funding in Dean’s Changemaker Challenge

The Dean’s Changemaker Challenge hosted its final pitch competition on Wednesday with two businesses each receiving an investment of $7,500 from a panel of expert judges. The final event marks the culmination of two ASCX courses – ASCX 200 and 300 - that were offered for the first time in the fall of 2020.

From Left to Right: Lakith Ranaweera, Tansy Hew, Keshiv Kaushal, Brittney Balcaran, Austin Yao and Alicia Parker.

Within the courses, students learned to identify real-world challenges and opportunities, worked collaboratively to develop solutions, and used startup business strategies to establish ventures to make the change they want to see happen.

Earning funding this year were: FinFem, a fintech company that aims to uplift women in the financial sphere by increasing financial literacy, amplifying women’s voices in finance, and connecting investors to personal wealth management companies to kickstart their investment journeys and UnLoved Foods, a venture that focuses on rescuing “ugly” fruits and vegetables from local farms, grocery stores, and restaurants to create delicious and nutritious food and beverage products, while supporting local economies by paying above-market rates for rescued products and donating to local food insecurity organizations.

“There is a teaching team of four for eight students which means a lot of attention and support,” says Alicia Parker from FinFem. “It’s an incredible opportunity and I think more students should take advantage of the program. Dean Crow has also been amazing in her support for these courses along with Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC) and FAS.”

Alicia Parker created FinFem alongside Tansy Hew and Brittney Balcaran.

“This class honestly changed my life,” says Hew. “The teaching team wants what’s best for us – they are truly setting us up for success.”

“I’m truly humbled by this,” says Keshiv Kaushal, who created UnLoved Foods along with Lakith Ranaweera, Austin Yao, and Amy Cui. “We have turned what was just an idea into something much more. It’s a vote of confidence and allows us to continue moving the company forward. We are both scared and energized.”

Yao agrees and adds the DDQIC allowed the team to reach their goal and the funding will help with the company’s next phase which is product development.

“It was a real pleasure for me to join this panel of expert judges,” says Barbara Crow, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science. “I want to thank the DDQIC for giving students this opportunity. It’s a chance to make the world a better place and enhance their university experience. My hope is we can integrate this program into the curriculum and give access to all FAS students.”

Dean Crow was joined on the panel by Marc Wayne (Artsci ‘88), an entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in starting and operating new ventures and Rick Mangat, president/CEO at Novadaq Technologies Inc.

In 2012 Wayne co-founded Bedrocan Canada Inc., one of the first federally licensed producers of cannabis. In 2015, Bedrocan was merged with Tweed Marijuana Inc. to form Canopy Growth Corporation, now the largest cannabis company in the world.

Dr. Mangat co-invented the SPY Imaging System, a product that can be used in surgeries to assess blood flow thereby impacting the lives of patients and doctors around the world. He then co-founded NOVADAQ Technologies which was sold to Stryker Corporation in 2017 for $1 billion.

Interested in participating and sharing your ideas with the Dean? Enrol in ASCX 200 this Fall. For more information visit the Dean’s Changemaker Challenge webpage.