Passion Into Profit Award recipients seek healthier living with start-ups

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Photo by: Jelani Grant

BY: JELANI GRANT 

Adda Blooms CEO Abena Offeh-Gymiah and SkinUp Care Founder Jessica Ampansoh’s start-up pitches stood out during the Passion Into Profit, earning them each $1,000 towards their budding businesses.

Passion Into Profit” is a joint collaboration between LaunchYU, Back 2 Basickz and funded by the York U TD Community Engagement Centre. The initiative was created with the aim of helping entrepreneurs in the Jane and Finch community obtain the skills and knowledge they need to become successful entrepreneurs.

Back 2 Basickz founders Amanda Coombs and Abdi Nassir introduced judges and guests to the five contestants. Each participant had already attended multiple workshops to learn the key essentials of launching and running a successful business, as a part of the program. Following the workshops, participants presented their business strategy, which included the passion behind their project, financial projections, target market, and the resources they use or need to maintain their business.

Participants were each given about five minutes to present their pitch to a panel of judges who would then inquire about the business in order to score the presentation based on varying factors. The two best business ideas were determined based on business potential and were awarded $1,000 to help get their business started.

Adda Blooms CEO Abena Offeh-Gymiah and SkinUp Care Founder Jessica Ampansoh impressed the judges most with their pitches, each earning $1,000 towards their business. The panel of judges consisted of City of Toronto Community Resources Project Manager Michael Skaljin, Community Projects Coordinator Talisha Ramsaroop, Innovation York Director Sarah Howe and Jane-Finch Concerned Citizens Organization Executive Director Winston LaRose.

Adda Blooms offers natural foods from the African continent that supports your health and well being. Following her presentation, Offeh-Gymiah handed out her Baobob Cacao Energy Bar to the judges and some lucky guests as proof that the healthy snack could appeal to anyone looking for healthier alternatives. “Hearing the list of ingredients is important…I can’t believe this is healthy,” Skaljin said after sampling the energy bar.

Being nut-free and dairy-free, Offeh-Gymiah said the square-shaped bar provides a clean energy boost that also helps with digestion and healthier skin. Adda Blooms also sells baobob powder, which can be mixed with any beverage as an energy drink.

Ampansoh’s skin care phone app also impressed judges as it offered a unique feature for mobile skin maintenance. Ampansoh said she has been providing skin care routines and recommending natural skin care products for years, on YouTube and Instagram, and would receive messages asking for recommendations. “The problem was I couldn’t recommend treatments or products without knowing their skin type,” she said.

Her solution to addressing the varied skin types was to create a mobile app that determines skin type through testing, recommending products and regiments based on the type, and documents the progress of treatment using the phone’s camera.

In addition to recommending skin regiments and recipes designated to the user’s specified skin type, Ampansoh explained that her app would use the phone’s mirror camera to regularly document progress. During her presentation, she demonstrated that apps that provide skin care recommendations do not offer day-to-day images of the users face to show results. Just before judges returned with their verdict, Ampansoh told Toronto Caribbean Newspaper she would use most of the prize money to find a programmer who is capable of making sure the camera update feature is efficient.

LaunchYU is the entrepreneurship unit for York University, as a part of Innovation York. They assist new entrepreneurs in starting their business, supporting more than sixty start-up companies in Toronto. Coombs was one of the first to enter LaunchYU’s passion project with Nassir. With support from LaunchYU, they were able to create their own non-profit organization assisting marginalized youth in Toronto.

Back 2 Basickz was created in 2013 with the intent of supporting youth involved in the criminal justice system. They targeted youth who were looking to start school or start a business but didn’t know how. “Sometimes we go into the prisons and speak to the people there, and when they come out we help them get rehabilitated,” Nassir said. They managed to help youth coming out of prison start companies, such as real estate and construction while assisting with their readjustment to society.

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