“TheSTAGE”: National Competition a Huge Success for Young Entrepreneurs


The SAGE Canada national competition, known as the “TheSTAGE”, signalled a tremendous end to a memorable school year for the brightest young entrepreneurs the country has to offer.

A group of talented high school students presented their start-up businesses in front of a panel of judges to qualify for a chance to represent Canada globally as youth entrepreneurs. The competition, which took place on Friday, May 13th at St. James Cathedral’s Snell Hall, was in search of the top 12 socially innovative youth ventures nationwide, to compete at our national stage for a chance to represent Canada globally as youth entrepreneurs. This year’s winners will have the chance to compete at the SAGE World Cup against 31 participating countries in Manila, Philippines. Before the presentations, both Christine Rettie, National Bank branch manager and president of MAKO Invent, Kevin Mako spoke to the students about the importance of entrepreneurs and empowered youth. The presentations were diverse and groundbreaking and showed just how talented each team was.

The winners were announced at a gala at St. Andrew’s Club & Conference Centre that featured networking, delicious food and an awesome view of Toronto’s skyline.

The host of Family Channel, Deepa Prashad was the emcee for the night and gave the students some tips on the transition from high school to university from her own experience attending Ryerson University.

The first speaker during the gala was Tyler Handley, an entrepreneur that was fed up with the permanence of tattoos and turned that problem into a product. He and his brother set out to develop a tattoo that wouldn’t leave them regretting the decision when they are older. They came up with InkBox, a company which has developed the world’s first non-permanent, but real looking tattoo.

The first round of awards for the night were then announced. The Innovation Catalyst award which recognizes the venture that has proven to be a real game changer in their chosen industry with creativity, passion and hard work was given to Proxi-Meet. The Startup for Change award was given to Creativity Through Arts. The Ignited award, which recognizes the team that demonstrated perseverance and a positive impact within their community through the message spread by their venture was given to Retina Marketing.

To congratulate an outstanding SAGE Canada team member, Virusan Wignarajah was named the Startup Consultant of the year, which recognizes that he has shown true passion and dedication in aiding his assigned venture to success.

SAGE Canada also wanted to recognize two students that stood out. The Youth Entrepreneur Of the Year Award, which recognizes a youth entrepreneur who has made an outstanding contribution to their venture and SAGE team was given to Alexia Wu from Toronto Story. The Women in Entrepreneurship award, which recognizes a young female entrepreneur who has shown great initiative and continuously proves to be an inspiration for her team and beyond was given to Betty Pu from Proxi-Meet.

Muskoka, a band comprised of young artists from Richmond Hill, entertained the audience with a musical set and then the crowd had a fun MindGameZ competition hosted by the Purple Patch Inc. where registered teams will engage in a preliminary round of tough questions with topics ranging from the current economy, business fundamentals and science. The top six teams qualified for the grand finale and the winners were awarded prizes.

Our second speaker of the night was Chivon John, who is a multi-passionate entrepreneur, speaker, writer and wellness and business strategist. She shared her struggles with entrepreneurship and emphasized the importance of taking care of yourself so you can take care of your start-up and also gave the students some great advice on how to be successful in the industry.

Finally, it was time to announce the final winners of the night. The Socially Responsible Business (SRB) runner up was Toronto Story. This company aims to unite the diverse voices of our city by sharing their stories. Their mission is to give Torontonians the opportunity to connect with each other and the city on a more personal level. This means being able to find relatable places and perspectives, while contrasting them with their own experiences. The company takes people’s experiences with a location in Toronto that is significant to them, and interpret them into a simplistic design. These designs are then printed on apparel to spread the stories, and a full written transcript of the story is also printed online for readers. Every story and every location that is shared ultimately portrays Toronto’s story.  

After her team’s big win, Alexia Wu from Toronto Story said “in that moment I knew that all the hard work and countless hours our team put into our business had paid off.

The success we experienced is credited to everyone who supported, helped and cheered for us along the way. SAGE will always have a special place in my heart, and I’m so grateful to now have a tangible piece of this journey through the award.”  

The Social Enterprise Business (SEB) runner-up was SpitStrips, a company with a goal to promote responsible drinking. The SpitStrip itself is a portable, user-friendly alcohol detector that effectively determines one’s blood alcohol level. The company behind this product know that by making this available at event venues, customers, their loved ones, and society as a whole will be positively impacted.

The winner of the Social Enterprise Business SEB was HelpWear, which was founded by André Bertram and Frank Nguyen. Operated out of Ryerson University’s Zone Learning ecosystem, the venture strives to improve home health care by developing affordable and accessible products for patients around the world. The company is currently developing its first product, the HeartWatch. This product allows for 24/7 at-home heart monitoring, with an embedded emergency contact system for further prevention and better treatment of heart related illnesses.

Bertram said he is “honoured to represent Canada, and youth entrepreneurship as a whole, in an opportunity as spectacular as the SAGE World Cup in Manila. It was a privilege to compete against fellow Canadian innovators, some of which will be our friends for years to come.”

The winner of the SRB category was Sitto, a Junior Achievement Company founded by 42 dedicated and aspirational students, who aim to ease the process of connecting babysitters and families, and to simplify the payment process between both parties. Described as the “Uber of Babysitting”, their services are offered in the form of a mobile application. The babysitting industry is a relatively untapped and traditional market, which has yet to be technologically revolutionized. Sitto aims to change the world of babysitting by introducing a technology-based solution that subsequently enhances the convenience and efficiency of this demanded service.

Drew Barot from Sitto said that the competition wasoverall, a fantastic experience. I went to SAGE last year, and this year was even better. Amazing venue, great people, enjoyable activities, and a lot more. Honestly one of the better experiences I’ve had this year! I hope to be back next year.”

There were many thanks to everyone that was involved in planning and attending the event from president Kathryn Gamis. Nationals was a huge success and SAGE Canada is excited to see what future ventures will bring to the organization.  

Check out the recap video of the competition by Serena Harding.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 12.40.28 PM

Sparking Youth Entrepreneurial Spirit