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Students explore interactive E-business

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 28, 2012

Students from Nunavut participated in a business competition for aboriginal students at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg from May 15 to 17.

Representing Arviat's John Arnalukjuak High School (JAHS) at the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) ESpirit competition were mentor Charlene Paterson and Grade 10 students Jane Pameolik, Elijah Ussak, Andy Evaloakjuk and Amber Schaubroeck.

Sakku School in Coral Harbour was represented by mentor Lisom TamEveleigh and Grade 12 students Delilah Netser, Becky Ottokie and Mavis Ell.

Only 25 schools from across Canada qualified to attend the BDC's 12th ESpirit national final.

Aimed at aboriginal youth in grades 10 to 12, ESpirit is a 16-week online business plan competition.

It's designed to increase student awareness of technology and ecommerce, and to foster entrepreneurial knowhow.

ESpirit provides students with interactive business planning resources, online access to mentoring, and extensive student-networking opportunities via the web and in person.

Paterson said the Arviat model is a photography and printing business.

She said the concept would have the students opening both an online store and a physical store in Arviat.

"The business would serve anyone needing photographic items or services, ranging from baby photos and wedding pictures to eco-tourism photos," said Paterson.

"It would also serve anyone wanting products with their images printed on them, such as travel mugs, calendars, that sort of thing.

"They could also provide passport photos and the day-to-day needs people have for photo and printing."

The students spent much of the past school year working on their business plan.

Paterson said they had to complete seven modules organized by E-Spirit.

"They submitted their business plan in a video this past February, and then we waited to hear if they met all the criteria and were accepted for the final.

"They were the only JAHS group to participate."

Schaubroeck said she had the original idea for the business.

She said when her schoolmates heard the idea and agreed to join the team, it was time to get down to business.

"I found it harder than I thought it was going to be," said Schaubroeck.

"I didn't realize how much there was to a business plan, so it was all a learning experience for me.

"I enjoyed learning about the canvas (free of optical brightness agents which are known to be toxic to fish and other animal and plant life) we're going to use and how eco-friendly it's going to be."

Evaloakjuk said he's not a shutterbug, but he liked developing the business plan.

He said he enjoyed the conference, especially the trade show and doing a slideshow in Arviat's presentation, and there was even a pleasant surprise along the way.

"A group was dancing and invited us up to join them," said Evaloakjuk.

"Getting up there to do some jigging in front of all those people was a little embarrassing, but it was also kind of fun.

"They were doing a little square dance, so I showed them the Arviat style and they all seemed to really enjoy it."

Paterson said she saw immense growth with her students during the project.

She said none of them had any experience when they first started trying to produce their business plan.

"After a long series of weeks, they really championed-up to pull this together.

"They poured their hearts and souls into it.

"They gave it their all this past week practising their presentation, and trying to be as businesslike as they could at that stage of the game.

"It was valuable for them to come to a university, see what it has to offer, and eliminate some of the fear factor with the unknown."

Paterson said the Arviat students are now entertaining what post-secondary or business school would be like to attend.

She said they're also talking about a possible return to the 2013 E-Spirit to take part in another competition.

"There's been some inspiration established within them because they're now genuinely interested and they know what it's all about. It would be interesting to see them refine what they've learned and then return to it.

"We can thank the BDC for a lot of that because it's put so much money and effort into the programming of these modules, and given schools the opportunity to incorporate them into their curriculum.

"It was nice to be given the opportunity to be a part of it in the first place."

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