If Dragons don’t do it for you – how about a Pythons’ Pit – Rotarians decide to put cash behind budding entrepreneurs.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON October 30, 2012   The name doesn’t do much for me but the concept certainly resonates – giving young people an opportunity to test their entrepreneurial ideas and raise some of the money they need to get an idea off the ground.  Then they have mentors to work with as they make their mistakes and learn that what they thought was a great idea, that was going to make them oodles of money, bumped into the cold hard reality of the market place.

While the idea is a bit of a copy – and a the pinching of an idea from CBC’s very popular Dragon’s Den TV show – the Rotarians have taken it quite a bit further.

The Pythons’ Pit leadership Team: From the right Dr Melina  Head, McMaster University, DeGroote School of Business;  Rotarian Fareen Samji with fellow Rotarian Tom McLeod and Joe Pagano, a representative from the Royal Bank.

Rotary works from the premise that ‘service is above self’. One of the arms of the organization is vocational service.  Fareen Samji, a Rotarian, had in the past been asked to take part in mock Dragon’s Dens events at Alexander Public School where she was really impressed with the ideas the grade 8 students had.  So impressed that it occurred to her that this was something Rotary could do.

Fareen is a dangerous woman with an idea.  With the idea in her head it wasn’t long before her Rotary Club said – sure, we could do that.  Now at Rotary if they go along with an idea you have – it is yours to achieve.  So there she was with approval from her Rotary Club to do a Pythons’ Pit.

Why stop with just the one Rotary Club she asked – and thus a Rotary Road show took place where she managed to get all ten Halton Rotary Clubs to get behind the idea.

Fareen knew that while this was her project to get done on behalf of the Rotary community in Halton Region, she also knew she couldn’t do it by herself.  Next step was the political level and she got a buy in from all four Mayors: Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills.

Then the other service organizations had to be cued up – Fareen needed to ensure she wasn’t stepping on any toes. The Chamber of Commerce was onside.

Dr Melina Head of McMaster University saw the Pythons’ Pit idea as a natural for the School of Business.

Training people for business in a world that is much more competitive and global as well meant there had to be an academic component – so the people at McMaster University got a call.  Fareen got lucky again when Milena Head, who runs the MBA program at the DeGroote School of Business, took to the idea instantly.

Fareen, who is the chair of the Pythons’ Pit project works with Tom McLeod who serves as vice chair.  Fareen and Tom McLeod approached McMaster as a team and brought them into the idea.

All this is a long way of getting to the point where we can tell you in some detail how this is going to work.  The most important thing we can tell you is that applications to be part of the program must be in no later than December 1, 2012.  There is a lot of work to get done – so start now.

There are two categories; a High School students category and a General category which means anyone who isn’t a high school student.

There are cash prizes for the students.

There are no cash prizes for the General.

The entry fees for both categories have been waived.

The Pythons’ Pit web site has all the forms and the metrics on which entrants will be judged.  Fareen Samji has no idea how many applications there will be – “we really won’t know until December 1st”, she said. “People will download the forms and begin putting together their applications – and that will take some time” she added.

Here are the links to the forms:

Student application form

General category application form

Next week we will tell you more about how this came together, how it will work and who the Pythons who will invest in the winning projects are and why they are doing this.

 To come:

Part 2  The corporate participants and sponsors

Part 3 – The Pythons


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