After six innovative pitches were made during the annual Cubs’ Lair competition hosted by FastStart Peterborough, the Innovation Cluster and the Trent Youth Entrepreneurship Society, Rich Cochrane of Status Exempt was announced as the winner of the final prize package of over $14,000 to help push forward his startup at the Gordon Best Theatre on Nov. 30.
Member of Curve Lake First Nation, Rich Cochrane started Status Exempt as a mission to make it easy for First Nations shoppers to buy online, tax exempt. Currently, First Nations online shoppers need to submit their receipts to the government for a tax refund, a process that can take up to 90 days – Cochrane’s innovative solution will reduce this to a few minutes.
Currently working in the Cluster’s incubator building his business, Cochrane has been busy creating a platform for businesses and First Nations consumers to provide tax exemption in an easy way.
“Reconciliation is a hot topic in Canada right now,” notes Cochrane. “A big component of reconciliation is building a stronger relationship between Indigenous Canadians and the rest of Canada and businesses will play a critical role in building that relationship.”
First Nations represent over 3% of Canada’s population and are also the fastest growing segment of the population with many living in remote or rural areas having no other option but to shop online. With this solution, Cochrane predicts that businesses will gain a large group of consumers.
Cochrane’s background includes being a banker in downtown Toronto, an analyst in the Aboriginal Banking unit at the Bank of Montreal, and graduating from the University of Windsor with a Bachelor of Commerce, specializing in Finance, Accounting and Entrepreneurship.
The judging panel for the night was; Adam Crowley – CPA at Gauvreau & Associates, Dawn Hennessey – BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) Business Centre Manager, Neil Morton – Co-Founder of PTBOCanada, Scott Mancini, Regional Vice President, Kawartha-Lakeshore Region at RBC and Nicole Stephenson, Partner at Stikeman Keeley Spiegel LLP.
They listened to pitches that included tech innovations for archaeology, real estate, energy saving and mobile apps, as well as a pitch for a cupcake bar service.
When choosing Cochrane as the Top Cub, the judging panel commented on how prepared Cochrane was for his pitch and knew exactly where he wanted to go with his business. They also were surprised to learn that there wasn’t a current solution to this problem.
“I didn’t do this alone,” said Cochrane while accepting the award. “People in the Cube helped me and I think that’s the real value of the Cube. I bounced these ideas off dozens of people. Rose and John, the Innovation Specialists helped me nail down this pitch so thank you to everyone for helping me there.”
This was the first year where six finalists were chosen over five as so many innovative businesses applied with potential to grow.
Rich Cochrane will now be able to push his startup with the grand prize package, which includes $3,000 cash from Ontario 150, extended incubator space at the Cluster, coaching and mentoring from established startups and more!