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U of M team serves gluten-free fare

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THE Stu Clark Investment Competition is sort of a big deal in Thailand.

Students from the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok travel halfway around the world every March to take part.

"The competition is quite well-known internationally. My alumni won it three years ago," said Salilla Kulwirottama, a business student at Sasin.

This year's SCIC attracted applications from 43 business schools, primarily from Canada and the U.S., but only the top 16 were invited to take part.

Each group of students has started a company. Many of them are already incorporated and the idea is to convince a panel of judges their business plans are worthy of venture capital.

The two-day event is broken down into three phases -- an elevator pitch (where students have 60 seconds to get as much information across as they can), a logo competition (where they explain the design and how it brands their company) and the business plan.

"The objective is for the students to convince the judges their company is not only viable but can strongly position them in a competitive marketplace," said Stuart Henrickson, director of the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Manitoba.

Some of the business schools vying for the top prize of $20,000 -- plus automatic entry into what is effectively the world championship in May in Texas -- come from Johns Hopkins University, Loyola Marymount University, the University of Iowa, the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario.

The host team from the University of Manitoba is made up of Manish Kaushal, James Fehr, Hayley Johnston, Michael Reimer and Alix Billinkoff. Their company, Prairie Food Innovation, commercializes healthy and nutritious food products.

Its first offerings are gluten-free pizza crusts and pita bread.

The gluten-free market is reportedly worth approximately $1.5 billion annually.

"A quarter of the population eats gluten-free," Billinkoff said.

"Part of what we'll be doing is showing these entrepreneurial teams how good Winnipeg is for business and how well they could do (here)."

The hosts have the dual responsibilities of participating in the SCIC while also ensuring their guests enjoy themselves.

It appears there will be no problem differentiating between the competition and the social outings.

"It's very friendly outside the room," said Kaushal.

"Everybody is mingling together and learning about each other. As soon as you get into your (industry) brackets, it's game on."

A welcome reception was held Thursday and today's festivities will feature a curling bonspiel.

The competition winds up Saturday.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2013 A12

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