May 19, 2019

Fuelling entrepreneurial thinking: RBC Foundation gifts $1M to Haskayne School of Business

Renewed support of entrepreneurial thinking builds on five years of high-impact learning for business students
Group photo of the 2019 RBC Fast Pitch Competition student participants and judges. Photos by Kelly

Third-year BComm student Ally Penic never pictured herself as an entrepreneur. Self-described as being more comfortable with numbers, processes and structure, Penic always thought she’d gravitate more toward accounting. But in 2018, she took home top prize at the RBC Fast Pitch Competition for HorseBit, an innovative solution to equine diagnostics.

Penic is just one example of how entrepreneurial thinking has impacted students. To date, nearly 300 students have participated in the RBC Fast Pitch Competition that is run through the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Building off their initial gift of $750,000 in 2014, this additional $1 million will support the pitch competition and three other initiatives. The RBC Fast Pitch Competition is celebrating its fifth year in 2019.

The competition, which is tied to the undergraduate class Entrepreneurial Thinking 317 (ENTI 317), sees groups of BComm students pitch their new venture ideas in front of an experienced panel of judges. Students have exactly four minutes to outline their new idea, including the problem, competitive advantage, market research, solution and next steps. In-kind services and mentor support to grow their idea are up for grabs. 

“I came to Haskayne just wanting my accounting degree, knowing that I fit the stereotype to a tee. However, I learned that in order to be an entrepreneur you don’t have to be a super abstract thinker. All you need is the ability to recognize what resources you have available and find something that you are passionate about,” reflects Penic .

BComm students Joshua Kahn, Kristy Wong, Kingston Leo and Elyse Petanca formed FloraGreen.

Kelly Hofer, Haskayne School of Business

2019 RBC Fast Pitch Competition

Every year students bring incredible ideas to the pitching stage, and this year was no exception. The 2019 winner of the RBC Fast Pitch is FloraGreen — an all-natural, biodegradable, re-usable and safe alternative to floral foam. Their goal is to replace the single-use plastic product traditionally used by florists.

The team of four were actually a last-minute addition to the program after another team was unable to participate. Some of the group members even had to change their after-semester plans to attend. “We felt like underdogs, but knew we had to take advantage of the opportunity,” says dual-degree student Joshua Kahn. “It was really nerve-racking but we were excited to get up on stage and present. We were the last team to present, so we had no idea how we compared to the other groups.

“After the presentation our whole group agreed that regardless of how we placed, we were really happy with how we presented and handled the judges' questions. We couldn’t believe we won.”

Chancellor Debra Yedlin and Jeff Boyd, regional president, Alberta and the Territories, RBC.

Kelly Hofer, Haskayne School of Business

Gift to support many facets of entrepreneurial thinking

RBC’s $1 million gift to the Haskayne School of Business will be centred around entrepreneurial thinking in business education. The financial support, which will be spread over the next five years, will fund the existing RBC Teaching Professorship in Entrepreneurial Thinking and enrich the ENTI 317 course. RBC will grow their impact to two new areas with this gift: entrepreneurial adventure education experiences and one of Haskayne’s newest graduate programs, Master of Management.

“Canadian youth have the ambition and talent to give us a competitive advantage in the skills economy of the future. Preparing them for the future of work is a core part of RBC’s purpose to help clients thrive and communities prosper. We are especially proud to support the Haskayne School of Business programs and help this unique group of trailblazers unlock their potential, learn skills and gain access to the job experiences of tomorrow,” says Jeff Boyd, regional president, Alberta and the Territories, RBC Royal Bank.

Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskayne School of Business, provides opening remarks for the day's events.

Kelly Hofer, Haskayne School of Business

Entrepreneurial thinking provides high-impact learning experience

Calgary’s entrepreneurial spirit is thriving at the Haskayne School of Business, and across the University of Calgary campus.

“Our hope is that ENTI 317 and the RBC Fast Pitch Competition are just the beginning of Haskayne students' entrepreneurial journey,” says Dr. Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskayne School of Business. “We know the positive influence that learning entrepreneurial skills can have on business education. With RBC’s continued support we’re able to reach more students with more high-impact initiatives.”

RBC’s gift is part of the university’s ongoing fundraising campaign, Energize: The Campaign for Eyes High, which is targeting $1.3 billion in support by 2020. Thanks to the generosity of RBC Foundation and other philanthropic leaders, friends and supporters, the campaign has crossed the $1.2 billion milestone and is helping the university invest in new student experiences, innovation in teaching and learning, and fostering deeper connections with the community.