STELLARTON - A panel of judges decided that Team Flare has a flair for business, awarding the Pictou County-based team that participated first place – and the People’s Choice award– in Pitch It, a business competition modeled after the TV show, Dragons’ Den.
Karmen MacLean, president of Flare, and the team of high school students in the Junior Achievement program who created the business, disclosed what she believes was the secret to their success:
“It was not only our pitch – it was the launch of our product. We decided we weren’t going to sell before the pitch, because we didn’t want to give ideas to the other participants,” Karmen said. “So to go there and find out our product is a good idea, is pretty cool.”
Karmen said the process of building Flare as a business was one that was exciting, “but a lot of hard work at the same time, because you can’t just go around buying something and sticking your name on it.”
Team Flare bought large amounts of wax to melt down into cubes to create their signature product – scented air freshener cubes meant for wax melters. They had originally thought about selling candles too, but decided it would be uneconomical to invest in something that required far more wax than simple “Flare Square” scented cubes.
“We figured that if we messed up, it’d be wasting a lot of wax, so we decided to turn around and do scent cubes,” said Karmen. “It came up because what we do is have everyone make suggestions, then go back and make prototypes, and come back and vote on what’s best.”
Although Karmen said her goal ha always been to do something like teach English for a living, her work in the Junior Achievement program has shown her that “opened my perspective on what I can do that still involves English. I’ve been thinking of maybe working at a publishing company because that would be interesting.”
The teams – which consisted of groups of high school students from Pictou County, Cape Breton, Antigonish, Truro, Amherst, Parrsboro and Hants – pitched their ideas for business plans to a panel of four judges.
Students built those plans from the ground up, noted Shannon MacLean, a company volunteer adviser with Pitch It.
Shannon said that during the presentation, “there were definitely plenty of nerves in the room, but once they got up there, and got up to a decent comfort level, they were off without a hitch,” she said.
Judges included several successful members of the Nova Scotian business community, including Catherine Millen, owner of Foxbrook Lipstick; Jeff Davis, owner Stashbelt; Jim Lorraine, owner of River Breeze Farms in Truro – and Tim Houston, MLA for Pictou East and a financial consultant.
Shannon said she’s excited to see her team win first place and the People’s Choice award (for the second year in a row) for their idea to bring a medley of beautiful scents to homes across the province.
The team is producing four scents right now – fruit slices, caramel, peppermint and vanilla – and they have potential plans to expand their offerings to include more scents. An additional point of pride for Shannon is that the team members plan to donate the proceeds from their business venture to Roots For Youth.
The members of Flare spoke to judges about why they chose to make scents, and why they wanted to support Roots for Youth – they wanted to help an organization that supports their fellow local youth.
Shannon said the group detailed how they brought their business from a plan, to fruition, with the selling of stocks in the company to raise money, and the initial preparations necessary to start selling their Flare Squares.
The students have constructed a marketing and sales plan from the ground up, and will be setting up at the New Glasgow Farmer’s Market this weekend – as well as at the Halifax Seaport Market the following day. They also plant do some door-to-door sales and sales through social media throughout the next couple of months.
Pitch It is the culmination of 18 weeks of work of students enrolled in the Junior Achievement program. The program teaches students about starting and running their own business, and what steps need to be taken, to do that.
Second place in Pitch It went to the Truro team for their business plan, while third place and third place was given to the Parrsboro team.