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Clash of entrepreneurs

U of C trio off for the big times

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They won't be renting Mercedes' and clubbing all over town, they'll just do the business of good business.

Three University of Calgary students will compete in the first annual Enterprize National Business Plan Competition hosted by the University of British Columbia from Feb. 8--10.

Civil Engineering students Shamshir Jessa and Ally Dewji and Brett Bilon of the Faculty of Management have spent several months perfecting their executive business plan. The 40--60 hours per week proved worthwhile when the plan was selected as a finalist in the highly competitive event.

"We're going in with the ambition to win and even if we don't, we'll have a hell of a good time," beamed Bilon.

The competition will take place in conjunction with the UBC Entrepreneurship Conference. The conference's purpose is to encourage student entrepreneurship and innovation, provide students with a chance to meet with and gain insight from various successful investors, professors and sponsor companies and give student teams the opportunity to create and present their own business plans in front of a professional panel of judges.

"Our venture consists of an online business to business Web portal for the highway construction industry that increases efficiency for logistics and procurement," explained Bilon.

The U of C team will compete against finalists from Mount Royal College, University of Manitoba, University of Victoria, University of British Columbia and York University. The winning team will be awarded up to $10, 000.

"We're pretty confident with what we have," said Dewji. "This is a great opportunity to get some exposure and perhaps gain interest from various investors."

Dewji and Jessa met in class and proposed their company venture as a class project. They later joined the Association of College Entrepreneurs to help foster their entrepreneurial skills. At the ACE, they met Bilon, who suggested registering it for the competition. It was an unusual cooperation between management and engineering, joked Jessa.

"We were the only two engineer members of ACE," she laughed. "It's good that the two departments are opening up to each other, engineers are going to have to work with management someday anyway."

Regardless of the outcome, the three students will live the high-life for the duration of the conference, staying downtown at the prestigious Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel, engaging in fine-dining and entertainment and finally celebrating their last night with a midnight cruise on the Burrard Queen.

"It's been a serious effort," said Jessa. "We're giving this our all."

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