A trio of local student entrepreneurs are being lauded for creating functional jewelry that boosts personal wellness.
In 2021, the inaugural Canadian Academic Entrepreneur Challenge tasked teams of Canadian post-secondary students with imagining a distinctive product and designing a comprehensive sales plan that uses direct-to-consumer channels to generate market success.
The winning project, Apeiro, is envisioned to be rings made of silver and terracotta that absorb and release essential oils for their wearers.
The competition was open to post-secondary students across Canada, and the winners were announced recently. Trinity Western University (TWU) students Connor Byrne, Marissa LaVasseur, and Graham Zastre took first place for their innovate wellness product.
Professor Andrea Soberg, dean of TWU’s school of business, was impressed.
“We are very proud of our students and are thrilled when they can demonstrate and are recognized for their excellent business skills and their entrepreneurial spirit. We wish them all the best in their future endeavours,” said the prof.
How the inspiration began
Figuring out the product the team wanted to create together was the hard part, LaVasseur shared.
An afternoon-long brainstorming session included “some pretty bad ideas, but a lot of laughing.”
The team wanted a product that fits the direct-to-consumer channel and something that other university students would be interested to own. They were also drawn to “wellness” as an area of interest. That’s when the inspiration for Apeiro arrived.
“Being in university, we are constantly tired, needing energy, and trying to focus on deadlines and assignments,” said LaVasseur, who graduated in 2021 with a bachelor of business administration, specializing in accounting and finance.
To answer this need, the team researched essential oils and other products that could improve wellness.
They envisioned a line of jewelry that is functional yet stylish, helping the wearer look good while providing an added health benefit.
Their brainchild, Apeiro, would “improve overall wellness in an easy-to-use way.”
Conner Byrne credited the “entrepreneurial spirit” of his team for their success.
The third-year business administration student, specializing in marketing, was inspired by how the competition focused on entrepreneurship, which is his area of passion, and desired the hands-on learning experience.
“A huge shout-out to professor [Dr.] Brian ‘t Hart for letting us know about this competition,” he said.
“His marketing class specifically helped me with knowing how to properly research an idea, as well as collaborate in a group and be ecstatic when presenting.”
In addition to encouragement from ‘t Hart, the team’s partnership and combined strengths secured their success, Byrne said.
His strength was generating new ideas, and he also starred in the team’s elevator pitch video.
Meanwhile, Zastre designed the logo and researched and provided details on the background of the product.
LaVasseur was the team facilitator and responsible for seamlessly joining the various aspects of their winning project.
Business at TWU
LaVasseur comments on how her TWU education equipped her for entering the business competition.
“Being in the business program, we get a well-rounded education of all aspects of business; so when the challenge required us to touch on topics like ethics, marketing, financials, and risk, I felt well-equipped to answer each of those sections,” she said.
As the winning team, the trio receive a $2,500 prize, as well as the opportunity to present to and meet industry executives of companies who utilize direct selling channels.
Apeiro is intended to be marketed through social media and social influencers.
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