You might not call them a sure thing, but the 30 student business plan booths sprawled throughout the south gym of Red River College Thursday represent a good part of the future of the provincial economy.
Every one of the 350 graduates of Red River's business administration entrepreneurship practicum work through the year putting a business plan together. They are scored by 135 external judges. Students present a written plan an oral presentation and a trade-show booth.
Scott MacAulay, the Red River faculty member in charge of the entrepreneurship practicum -- who likes to say, "We're light on lecture and application-heavy" -- has been working hard at getting the students to think outside the box and work up business plans that are more daring than what young post-secondary students might normally devise.
Earlier in the year, Red River students took part in a presentation with Ramp Up Manitoba in which budding entrepreneurs pitched ideas, including cutting-edge digital concepts.
At least one of the 30 business plans was inspired by that experience.
Called Education Donation, the idea of that business is a crowd-funding service designed specifically for school fundraisers.
Colby Deighton, leader of that group, said even though there are other popular crowd-funding sites on the Internet, none of them lets schools raise cash for field trips or sports teams
To show how it might work, the group raised $880 for its own trade-show booth.
"That was a real validation for us that the business could work," Deighton said.
The demanding practicum places students in large teams in which they use everything from their business education to build a startup business plan.
MacAulay said, "We know that can be a dysfunctional number. But part of the program is about conflict resolution, coachability, managing supervisors, getting along.
"People who employ our students say they know how to work in groups, they know how to get along, they are coachable. That's is a big deal."
Matt MacDonell won top prize at the trade show in 2008 for an environmentally sustainable general-contractor business.
Five years later, IRIS Contractors has about 10 employees and business is booming.
"The Red River experience left a big impression on me," said MacDonell, who comes back every year to be a judge at the Entrepreneurship Practicum.