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Young entrepreneurs recognized at first annual event.

Six young entrepreneurs were honoured at the first annual Young Entrepreneurs of Thunder Bay Awards held in the Valhalla Inn ballroom on May 3.

At least 100 supporters attended the dinner and presentations where entrepreneurs between ages 18 and 35 were recognized for excellence in six categories: innovation and technology, service excellence, student entrepreneur, supporter of youth entrepreneur, community involvement and entrepreneur of the year.

For the past six years, Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce has included an award for best young entrepreneur in their own ceremony, but that tradition came to an end this year when the chamber decided to replace that category with an award for best new business.

But the Young Entrepreneurs of Thunder Bay (YETB), couldn't let a year go by without recognizing the city's young businesspersons. Also, by organizing the ceremony the group saw an opportunity to build some credibility in the city, says Melissa Gorrie of YETB.

The chamber of commerce continued to support the young entrepreneurs this year as a major sponsor and is considering reintroducing the award in its own presentations, but Lisa Owens of the chamber says the YETB hosted an excellent event.

By spotlighting these young entrepreneurs, Gorrie says other young people will realize the opportunities and support available to them in the city.

Terry Pentney and Kurtis Kostamo received the Student Entrepreneur Award for their business plan for the Canadian Tae Kwon Do Journal.

Both men are recent graduates of Confederation College's entrepreneurship program. Two years ago Pentney was compiling a logbook for martial artists. After considering a similar logbook for Tae Kwon Do, Kostamo suggested a bold new idea - to start a magazine.

After researching the magazine industry, gauging the interest of the Tae Kwon Do community in Canada and the potential market for such a magazine, the two created a business plan for what will be Canada's first Tae Kwon Do magazine.

To learn more about their target audience, Pentney and Kostamo contacted Tae Kwon Do schools in Canada, distributing surveys to masters and students. Those surveys indicated a potential readership audience of about 50,000, a conservative estimate, says Pentney.

Currently, those readers get their sport's news and information from American and international magazines which are popular in the United States and Canada.

"The masters we sent the surveys to have suggested that they are very interested in a Canadian publication," Pentney says.

"We really want to develop a sense of pride in our Canadian athletes," Kostamo says. In the absence of any Canadian magazines on the sport, Canadian Tae Kwon Do enthusiasts pick up the-American magazines which spotlight their own champions.

Pentney and Kostamo, along with a number of correspondents, will write about nutrition, sports medicine, athletes of distinction and other issues of interest to those involved in the sport. The magazine may start as an Internet site accompanied by monthly newsletters.

Rob McFarlane and Dave Hrycyszyn received the award for innovation and technology for their multimedia business, Atomic Joe New Media.

Since forging a partnership in 1999, the pair have designed Web pages and have been involved in multimedia development for the Northern Ontario Native Tourism Association, the 2000 Corporate Relay for Shelter House and Thunder Bay Sexual Assault/Sexual Abuse Crisis Centre.

Although Atomic Joe has no current plans to leave the region, McFarlane says expanding beyond the city is an attractive idea.

They've already attracted several clients from the United Kingdom.

Other awards went to Kevin Wozny of The Yard Professionals for service excellence, Daina Maslach of PARO for supporter of youth entrepreneurs and Marisa Farrow of Event-Full Calendars for community involvement

The Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the individual who embodies all of the other category requirements and demonstrates potential for future prosperity went to Vern Fiddler for his business Evolution Corporate.

The young entrepreneurs all seem to agree that the initial leap into a new business venture involves a certain amount of risk.

"From the entrepreneurs I've seen and talked to, it definitely takes guts (to start your own business)," Kostamo says.
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Title Annotation:Young Entrepreneurs of Thunder Bay Awards
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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