Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Entrepreneurial best: StFX student Hannah Chisholm wins $10,000 top prize at Atlantic entrepreneurship competition

January 19th, 2018
StFX student Hannah Chisholm (right) is congratulated by 100 Seeds Atlantic co-founder Allyson England on winning the 100 Seeds Atlantic pitch competition and its $10,000 prize

StFX entrepreneurship student Hannah Chisholm’s plan to launch her own business so impressed a group of 100 Atlantic entrepreneurs that she was named the $10,000 top prize winner at the 100 Seeds Atlantic competition.

The win will enable the Gerald Schwartz School of Business student to move her vegan egg alternative business idea closer to commercialization. It also provides much validation.

“I was really excited, and a little overwhelmed,” says Ms. Chisholm, an Antigonish, NS native, on claiming the top prize at the Jan. 16, 2018 pitch competition open to youth aged 16-24. 100 Seeds Atlantic is a non-profit organization created in response to Ray Ivany’s Now or Never report to foster youth entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada.

“I hoped my presentation would be excellent, but sometimes it is still hard to believe. This is something I’ve been working on for a year now, and it’s hard to believe I’m at the point where I’m almost ready to launch.”

Her product, called Eggcitables, is a chickpea-based vegan egg replacement that can be used to make omelettes, scrambles and other egg-based meals. She’s also developing the product to be used in baked goods.

She’s hoping to launch her business shortly after she graduates from StFX this May.

Ms. Chisholm, who has an egg allergy, says she began developing a product to use herself, playing around with ingredients. In summer 2017, when she was selected as one of four Wallace Interns at StFX, an internship where students take an idea and see if they can turn it into a business, she was introduced to the Perennia Innovation Centre, a group of food scientists based in Truro, NS. Together, they’ve been working on the texture of the product, and she says they’ve been a big help.

Ms. Chisholm says after Paula Brophy at the StFX Extension Department alerted her to this competition opportunity, she submitted her business plan and an application online and was chosen as one of three finalists to come to Halifax, NS to pitch their business idea in eight minutes to a roomful of entrepreneurs.

Hannah Chisholm presenting (top photo) and celebrating (bottom photo) her competition win. 

Event organizers invite 100 entrepreneurs to the competition and ask each to contribute $100 to the prize money, which is to be spent toward developing the business idea.

Each of the 100 entrepreneurs write down their vote for the winner and the finalist with the most votes wins.

“It’s a really cool, interesting event,” Ms. Chisholm says. “There’s also a lot of networking opportunities.”

As the only female entrepreneur in the top three, she says it was also nice to showcase women entrepreneurs.

Ms. Chisholm says she’s done a lot of market research and is excited to tap into the huge movement with vegan food and people trying to eat sustainably.

She’s also hoping to fulfill a need. She says currently there is only one similar product on the market and it is expensive.

As someone who has allergies, she says she’s witnessed the growth in the industry as new products have come on the market and how valuable these advances are.

Ms. Chisholm credits her time at StFX for helping her grow as an entrepreneur.

She says the Wallace Internship was great, helping connect her to other entrepreneurs and a network of people. As well, she’s had a lot of support to work on the idea through various business classes projects, and she says she consistently gets emails from her professors encouraging and alerting her to opportunities.  

“My professors have had a lot to do with my ability to pursue this as an entrepreneurial venture, and have had a lot to do with my successes,” she says.

She says she also enjoys the way the entrepreneurship program is structured at StFX, allowing students to specialize in everything, taking courses in accounting, marketing, and finance. “You get a little bit of every major, and a well-rounded skill set.”

Ms. Chisholm, who’s been actively involved at StFX as co-president of Enactus StFX, Students’ Union Student Food Resource Manager, and in the StFX 4-H Society, says entrepreneurship has long been her passion, stretching back to high school.

The idea of being her own boss appealed to her as did the process of having an idea and working to create a product that can be sold.

“It’s cool to be able to get involved in something you’re really passionate about,” she says. “That’s really admirable that you get to work on something you’re passionate about.”

She will now be looking at finding partnerships, securing suppliers, and working on her branding and logo, and is targeting her official business launch for shortly after graduation.

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart,” she says. 

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