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This article was published 23/6/2016 (727 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Heather Urquhart quit her job in the corporate world, went back to school to study strategic management to go along with her botany degree and is now making her own line of skin-care products that’s being scooped up by eager customers at $95 per vial.
On Wednesday, her company, Huna Natural Apothecary, won Innovate Manitoba’s 2016 Venture Challenge against a field of five other presenters that were arguably some of the most polished presenters in the program’s history.
Urquhart’s products, a line of premium skin-care creams and lotions, has already caught the attention of the likes of British Vogue magazine and some high-profile online beauty bloggers.
'I got a botany degree at the U of M way back in the day and Ieft to go into the corporate world. Now I'm coming back to my roots. It's all coming together'
"I got a botany degree at the U of M way back in the day, and left to go into the corporate world." Urquhart said. "Now I’m coming back to my roots. It’s all coming together."
Judges might have been influenced by the potential of the US$13.2-billion global skin-care market — and Urquhart fully intends to go global. Even though Huna has only a handful of products and a small customer base of a couple of hundred users, Urquhart’s smart, professional pitch made it clear she had the dedication and passion every business requires to succeed.
In addition to her botany degree and marketing studies, Urquhart is also a chartered herbalist (in training) and a natural-cosmetic formulator. Urquhart hand-harvests her own organic calendula, chamomile, lavender, borage, echinacea and licorice root that are infused in the formulations that include face toner with neroli and citrus, cleansing powder for the face with coconut milk, rice, banana and licorice root and facial mist with rose, aloe and watermelon.
By landing first place, Urquhart wins $10,000 in cash and $100,000 worth of business-support services as well as an expenses-paid trip to attend the Banff Venture Forum or the Canadian Financing Forum and the opportunity to attend and possibly present at the National Angel Capital Organization Summit in Vancouver, B.C.
Previous Innovate Manitoba’s Venture Challenge participants and winners — Permission Click, Portray Media, Kindoma and Pricerazzi.com — have won both the National Angel Capital Organization and the Canadian Financing Forum pitch competitions against participants from across the country the previous two years.
Innovate Manitoba has put about 40 companies through its program in the last few years, including 15 that go through the 31/2-day intensive boot camp.
"We think some of Manitoba’s best performing startup companies are coming out of the Venture Challenge program largely because of the 31/2-day boot camp, which gives them time to prepare pitches to really experienced judges who give them fabulous feedback," Lederman said.
Among other things, all of the recent past winners have had very good success in raising capital in the 12 to 18 months after the Venture Challenge. For example, last year’s winner, Pricerazzi, has raised nearly $400,000, and earlier this year, Permission Click closed a $1.75-million financing round.
Second- and third-place finishers who win smaller cash prizes and the same $100,000 package of business services were:
● Second place: Fastoche Canada Inc. — co-founded by Chris Gaulin and Mario Gaulin. Fastoche has developed mobile software for use by early-childhood educators that brings essential data such as attendance, contact details, allergies/medical information, billing reports and more into one simple accessible suite, and
● Third place: the Campfire Union — co-founded by Lesley Klassen, John Luxford and Rachel Hosein. Campfire Union has developed a social network that focuses on live-streaming and sharing of user-generated content in augmented and virtual reality.
The rest of the participants were:
● TrapTap — A team of serial entrepreneurs who’ve developed a simple wireless device that sits on your dash and warns drivers as they approach red-light cameras, school zones and mobile/radar speed traps. It recently raised $500,000 in a Kickstarter campaign, the largest amount ever from a Manitoba company;
● 3 Guys Green — A company that has developed a hydroponic vertical farming method for use in vacant buildings that produces local fresh-picked organic produce; and
● Max Analytics — A company started by hockey enthusiasts that has developed a cloud-based data analytics platform that streamlines the administration of amateur tryouts, player evaluation and data reporting and then delivers skill-development content matched to individual players and teams.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.