Five dollars. Five days. And a future of opportunity for Trent University Business Administration students Sana Virji and Ribat Chowdhury.
The fourth-year entrepreneurship students accepted and rose to the "Five Dollar Challenge" exceeding the expectations of their professors and classmates — by far.
As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 17-21), the Trent Business Students Association (TBSA) hosted the fifth annual TBSA Entrepreneurship Week which included the challenge that saw students at both Trent and Fleming College charged with making as much money as possible through a start-up business initiative. They were given $5 in seed money and five days to make it all happen.
With their initiative Ribbet, coupons with accompanying QR codes in a business card-sized booklet, Ms. Virji and Mr. Chowdhury raised $6,300 — the most money in the challenge's five-year history at Trent.
The pair also won the challenge last year when they turned their $5 into $1,500 with the first generation downtown business coupon booklet for students. This year they infused their invention with technology — a QR code for each coupon. But instead of traditional QR codes that would simply link to the businesses' web sites, Ms. Virji and Mr. Chowdhury embedded a number of links, including Facebook pages, maps and reviews.
"It was a lot of hard work," says Ms. Virji, adding that Ribbet is her nickname for her business partner. Ms. Virji, an international student from Pakistan, and Mr. Chowdhury, from Bangladesh, met on the bus from the airport as they were about to begin their first year at Trent. Both have full-time jobs, but describe in detail what it took to sign-up 42 business at $150 each, often having to go back to them several times before they were given a firm commitment.
The pair worked around the clock every day for a week. On the last day of the challenge, they signed up 11 businesses — the last one just 30 minutes before the deadline.
"Ribbet was a good idea, but it was the determination to get it done that made it a success," says Ms. Virji. "It was a wonderful learning experience. It showed us that if we had a goal, we could achieve anything, and it has given us the confidence to move forward."
Next semester, the students will take a course on new venture planning, where they will write a business plan as if they are taking their initiative to market.
"We are entrepreneurial and business-minded and want to do something on our own," says Mr. Chowdhury, adding they are both inspired by hard-working parents. "Maybe Ribbet will be our chance to make our mark. The entire Business Administration department is trying to help us to take this further. We have a good support system. If you work hard, there is always support — there is strong support at Trent."
Professor Cammie Jaquays of the Business Administration program is among those supporters. She is extremely proud of Ms. Virji and Mr. Chowdhury, along with her other students whose $5 challenge initiatives included selling chocolate bowls and homemade kettle corn, braiding hair and offering manicures. Fishy Wishy was a social innovation that saw personalized cards and inspirational notes sold in envelopes for 50 cents each. They were intended to help students who were feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Another group of students let passersby throw snowballs at them for 50 cents a throw until they had enough money to buy a snow shovel to clear driveways.
"It's living entrepreneurship for the entire week. The students love it, and they have fun with it," says Prof. Jaquays. "There are so many students on our campus that have ideas and we just have to open the door for them. It's about taking an idea from concept to reality."
According to Industry Canada, 98 per cent of businesses in our country have 1 to 99 employees, and so, Prof. Jaquays says entrepreneurship education is essential.
As part of the $5 challenge, she says learning is limitless, with lessons of teamwork, time management, sales and marketing, along the experience of the dedication and the drive necessary to succeed as a business owner.
The students also learned a lesson in philanthropy, as they donated 15% of their earnings to the YES Shelter for Youth and Families Peterborough.
Posted on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.