Commercial kitchens are hot, busy places to work in. Georgian College Culinary Management students Edena Pettit, Amanda Adams and Nick DeWor know that first-hand, and they are doing something about it.
As part of their Entrepreneurship and Small Business course they created a premium-quality line of breathable chef’s clothing that will make life more comfortable for kitchen staff. Not only did they create the product concept, but they have crafted a practical business plan.
They call the firm NEA Workwear, and hope to turn their class project into a working business when they graduate this spring. Armed with fabric samples for now, they will outsource production of the uniforms or possibly license the product.
Pettit, Adams and DeWor are not the only ones who think it’s a viable business. A panel of business experts – “the Bears” – has agreed. Panel members gave the NEA Workwear team first place in the Georgian Den competition, a business challenge that follows the format of CBC Television’s Dragons’ Den.
More than 100 students from the Hospitality Management, Culinary Management and Recreation and Leisure Services programs worked hard on their business plans all semester, beginning in early January.
Each entrepreneurial team created a business plan that takes into account all aspects of getting a new business up and running – finances, marketing, human resources and more. The projects covered a wide range of business ideas, from specialized food trucks to mobile apps and various services.
Faculty member Arthemise Lalonde said the practical nature of the course, culminating in the Georgian Den competition, strongly appeals to students.
“The Georgian Den provides the students with an opportunity to apply their classroom learning in a real-life business situation, where industry professionals critique and analyze, but also offer support and guidance to the next generation of business leaders,” said Lalonde. “It is a true validation of the student’s learning and efforts over the course of the semester.”
NEA Workwear team member Amanda Adams said they began their project by comparing notes about how hot and uncomfortable they feel working in commercial kitchens. The decided on clothing that features industry-standard twill on the exterior with a Lycra-style interior fabric that wicks away moisture, keeping the wearer cool. There’s even a fireproof panel on the front for those working close to stoves.
And the Georgian Den judges provided valuable real-life experience.
“The chef on the panel said there’s nothing like this on the market and he thought it was a great idea. It was wonderful to get professional advice and gain some actual contacts in the industry,” Adams said.
A total of 30 teams took part in the initial round of judging by a panel of faculty members. The five finalists then pitched their business plans to a panel of real-life business operators: Dave Hyde and Chris Iliffe, co-owners of Try That; Frank Berdan, Vice President – Commercial Financial Services, RBC; Paul Berdette, owner, Hospitality Plus Ltd.; Marie-Noelle Bonicalzi, Dean and Entrepreneurial Advisor, President’s Office, Georgian College; Kent Smith, owner, Michael and Marion’s restaurant, Barrie; and Chris Partridge, partner in the law firm Wildeboer Dellelce LLP, which provides legal services to the CBC-TV’s Dragons’ Den.