Start-up focused on supporting Indigenous artisans wins pitch competition & coveted spot in BESTLab

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In early April, five groups of students from the Lassonde School of Engineering, Schulich School of Business and the Faculty of Health at York University pitched their business ideas as part of the BEST Certificate’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Ventures course (ENTR 4500). The groups were SleepPODzzz, Team Outfyts, Team PestTech, Team Cannabliss Spa and Team Heritude.

Each group presented their diverse ideas to a panel of judges who later had a hard time picking a winner as all teams made great cases for their proposals.

In the end, team Heritude, which included Sebastian Shanthirajah, Utkarsh Pandy, Lyssete Bueno Murga, Tran Phuong and Emma Zacharias came out on top, winning $500 and spot in the BEST Lab to work with Dr. Andrew Maxwell to turn their idea into a viable start-up.

Heritude’s business idea is a quality lifestyle brand that offers accessories, home décor and amenities designed by indigenous communities. The product line would include clothing items, décor and jewellery as they found there is a high demand for handcrafted, artisanal products in Canada. The Team’s goal is to create and sell a line of products fulfilling this demand, while also supporting local communities.  

There is no shortage of prolific, Canadian artists in Indigenous communities across the country already creating high quality goods. Heritude would recruit these artisans to develop products collaboratively. The artists would benefit from working with Heritude as an online platform since they would be given access to the infrastructure required to run an ecommerce-based business as well as grow their audience.

Also, unlike competitors, Heritude wants to put these artists and their cultures at the forefront of their products. From the online shopping experience to the unboxing process, Heritude will make every part of the consumer’s product experience an educational one, teaching consumers about the Canadian Indigenous cultures they are purchasing from. A portion of the revenues would go into initiatives benefitting Indigenous communities like supporting reconciliation and monetary giving.

“The Heritude team was strong with a clear understanding of who their paying consumers would be and which artists they should attract. Each member’s passion was noticeable during the pitch. Undoubtably, they convinced their audience on the attractiveness of this new venture concept as well as their ability to execute it,” Dr. Moren Lévesque, Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems, Schulich School of Business.

Join us in congratulating Sebastian Shanthirajah, Utkarsh Pandy, Lyssete Bueno Murga, Tran Phuong, and Emma Zacharias for this impressive achievement.

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