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Business students and mentors connect

July 21, 2011

Nerves were high, but so was the value of the learning experience.

Bachelor of Commerce students and alumni presented business ideas to an audience of influential entrepreneurs at the inaugural Summit of Leaders at Royal Roads University July 13. The event, organized by League Assets Corp., brought business leaders, companies and students together on campus to share ideas and foster opportunities.

"We came together in the spirit of fostering entrepreneurship," said Dean Lindal, League Assets Global vice-president business development and strategic alliances. "Royal Roads is passionate about that, (as are the business people who attended). When you combine that with budding students who have entrepreneurial ideas and plans I think the end result is going to be good."

A small group of students and alumni presented their business ventures in a Dragon's Den format with hopes of gaining connections, mentorship or financial investment in their work. In the audience were CEOs and presidents of companies such as Prophet Fund, Bluecat Networks, and Microsoft.

"(The day was a chance to see that) with a vision and with the right people supporting you, you can really move forward and move up," said Bachelor of Commerce student Michael Anderson.

It was a great opportunity to present to a demanding crowd, said BComm alumnus Aaron Smith. He valued the chance to receive insight from a group of successful entrepreneurs that have all failed, learned and ultimately succeeded in their careers.

"Those experiences are just about impossible for the average business person to get, and I certainly don't consider myself to be anything exceptional, just exceptionally fortunate," Smith said.

Alumni Annalea Krebs, founder of EthicalDeal.com, presented her sustainability-driven version of Groupon, while Smith pitched his soon to launch business Go Voluntouring, an online resource for people looking to work and volunteer aboard. The third alumnus, Allan Duncan, explained how he is expanding the portfolio of his business CSS to include the servicing of wind turbines.

Two teams of current students presented their ideas as well. The team for Pure Blue pitched a patented filter technology for storm drains. The other promoted PitchStand, a crowd sourced equity finance business.

"It was nerve-wracking, but it was a good experience," said Mike Ansley with Pure Blue. "It was just another step in our education we were proud to take part in."

The audience graded the students and alumni on their presentation, offering concrete feedback on their delivery, business models and clarity of purpose. That information is so valuable, said Geoff Archer, Director Eric C. Douglass Entrepreneurship Centre at RRU. The presentations all received high marks, but the variation in comments allowed presenters and faculty to really break down where they may have lost people.

 "It's amazing to have gotten this real practical feedback to their real venture and know what is wrong with their presentation to cause it to fall flat on half the people there," Archer said. "The students from RRU were really impressive to real world successful entrepreneurs and investors."

The success of the day was measured by the connections made, Lindal said. One week out, the RRU alumnus has received 30 testimonials from students and attendees, saying it was a life-changing experience, he said.

"If attendees and students could walk away with a new connection or a new mentor or a new piece of learning and have fun that was a win," he said.

At least one group did just that, Archer said, noting one of the current BComm teams received a call for a separate meeting.  "That's the holy grail for making a presentation in front of investors," he said.

For the alumni asked to come back to campus, it means that the investment he made in Royal Roads has come full circle as the university now invests in him with events such as the Summit of Leaders, Smith said.  

"It means everything to me to have the school continue to grow its reputation and reach," he said. "It empowers my degree."

League Assets and Royal Roads University are currently planning the second annual Summit of Leaders, slated for August 2012.