Creating something out of nothing

Since fall 2008, entrepreneur students from the Bissett School of Business have been challenging themselves by participating in the Mount Royal Innovation Tournament.

The Tournament, which was inspired by Stanford University, has been steadily evolving on campus the past three years, however, the main objective remains the same: create value for a simple object and to generate a business idea from it.

Alberta champions
MRU's YOU Innovate champions, from Mount Royal University:Team Boja aka One Blue Coffee Cup: From l - r: Olivia Bohdan, Josh Holloway, Adam Holloway, and Breana Baker.

As a result of the efforts of Associate Professor Alex Bruton, the Mount Royal Innovation Tournament has now extended its reach beyond Bissett to that of the province and also the entire country.

Bruton collaborated with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF), with whom he volunteers, to create a bigger and better innovation tournament for Alberta and Canada.

Out of this the YOU Innovate Canada Tournament was born.

Founding a national competition

"We are the founding partner of this national initiative which is being held up on the international stage by CYBF, the Canadian hosts of Global Entrepreneurship Week," says Bruton.

"I think this has gone a long way to positioning our school as a leader in educational initiatives for innovation and entrepreneurship in Canada with no expense to us. And it has strengthened our relationship with CYBF."

YOU Innovate launched in Toronto at the end of last September with 113 teams of up to four participants, progressing to the regional championships. Of the 113 teams, 66 teams were from the community category, and 47 teams were from the post-secondary category.

Mount Royal was well represented as a founding partner and fielded 22 teams for the competition.

According to the CYBF website, "YOU Innovate Canada was an opportunity for every Canadian to engage with, connect to and see the value of entrepreneurship in their everyday lives."

A cup of MRU

This simple object that the teams were asked to create new value for was a coffee cup.

The champion of the first national tournament last year was The Grow Mug Project.

Students at Brandon University in Manitoba, used personalized recycled mugs to grow herbs and teach children about plants and healthy eating for their winning entry.

Thirteen teams from across Canada were selected from the expert judging panel and through the online public voting as regional champions.

A team of MRU students, Boja, were crowned as Alberta champions for their innovative idea of trading in their "one blue coffee cup" for other items of perceived value.

Boja's Breana Baker, who recently graduated from the BBA program at Bissett, explains that her team went through some trial and error before coming up with their winning idea.

All champions received their share of $25,000 in cash awards from, and the national champions also received one trip to Liverpool, England to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March 2012.

With only two weeks to "innovate" their coffee cup, Baker says they spent the first week on a losing idea.

"Originally we actually started off using Styrofoam, making Christmas ornaments, but then we quickly decided that wasn't the way to go," says Baker. "We decided with a week left, that we weren't going to get anywhere if we keep doing Christmas ornaments."

Follow the evolution of the Innovation Tournament

Face Time has covered the MRU Innovation Tournament since its inception.

To see the results of previous events please visit the following links:

Getting something out of nothing

Nuking soap, changing lives

Switching gears

With only a week left and their backs against the wall, Boja decided to do something they weren't even sure was within the rules of the competition and started a blog to trade their object.

"We just wanted to see what we could get for it, we weren't really sure how generous people would be or even if they'd be interested at all, but we were surprisingly impressed," says Baker.

She says at first the team; consisting of herself, third-year student Olivia Bohdan, third-year student Josh Holloway and fourth-year student Adam Holloway, began by trading with family and friends and thought this was their only option for success.

Baker originally brought their one blue coffee mug to Fort MacMurray and traded it for a picture frame.

The frame was then traded for another object, and so on and so forth, with a few random objects thrown into play.

The team received a rice cooker, a DVD player, a painting and even a mattress that they had to turn down because they had no way of getting it.

Baker and her team ended up with three tickets to the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships, which were just hosted in Calgary.

And the end product ended up going farther than they anticipated as they donated them for a good cause.

"We contacted For the Love of Children Society and they gave us a family name because we thought they'd be better used by someone who would appreciate them more," Baker says. "They had never been to a hockey game and they just moved here so they were really happy."

Don't forget to see Boja's winning YOU Innovate entry online.

- Fred Cheney, Jan. 12, 2011