Entrepreneurs earn cash at Neepawa event

Four Westman businesses received cash prizes after taking part in “What’s the BIG Idea?”, the town of Neepawa’s annual entrepreneurial event, on Oct. 13.

The event, which took place at the Neepawa Legion, located 76 kilometres northeast of Brandon, was the seventh one the town’s economic development office has hosted.

In a previous interview with the Sun, Marilyn Crewe, the town’s economic development officer, said the event was put on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, but made a comeback last year.

In total, four entrepreneurs walked away with $8,650 in cash prizes this year. They also got to take in a day of networking and an entrepreneur trade-show and hear speakers from local businesses and organizations.

Porrok Repair Service Ltd., an agricultural service company based in Neepawa, won Best Pitch of the Day for its mobile mechanic service, which offers a range of agricultural repairs on-site or in their shop north of Eden, 93 km northeast of Brandon. The business was awarded $1,000 from Community Futures Westman, a community based volunteer organization that operates a business development centre.

The repair services company also won Stride Credit Union’s Best Overall Idea prize of $1,000 and the Best Idea in Ag award of $500 from MNP, an accounting firm. The Neepawa and District Chamber of Commerce awarded the business $500 and the same amount was given by the Rural Municipality of Minto-Odanah, located between the city of Brandon and Riding Mountain National Park.

Jamie Porrok, who owns the business with his wife Ashton, said it felt good to win the money and the recognition for his business, which was launched in 2021.

“It was a good event,” he told the Sun. “The money will go towards some specialty tools that I’ll need … and it helped with marketing, too.”

All in Boutique, a Neepawa home-based business that provides gown and formal wear rentals, event decor and makeup, manicure and pedicure and face painting services, won $150 from the Neepawa Lionelles and $2,000 from the Neepawa and Area Development Corporation. The Sun emailed Meriam Virudazo, owner of All in Boutique, but didn’t receive a reply by press time.

Dave Koszman and Keith Robulak’s business venture, The Garlic Guys, was awarded the $1,000 marketing package from PromoTime, a promotional gift and services store in Neepawa, the Neepawa Banner & Press and Provost Signs, and $1,000 from the rural municipality of Rosedale, located 87 km northeast of Brandon.

Koszman and Robulak grow garlic in Kelwood, 121 km northeast of Brandon, and supply it to local markets. The Sun emailed the company to request an interview but did not receive a reply by press time.

Finally, Jesse Kaiser from Neepawa received $1,000 from the Town of Neepawa for his business Succeeding Lights Software, which recently developed a multiplayer Android video game. The Sun was unable to reach Kaiser for comment.

The wide array of businesses that won awards and took part in the event represents the diverse entrepreneurs of the Westman area, Crewe said.

“Each year is just a little bit different. That’s what makes it such a fun event — you just never know what those pitches are going to be.”

Setting up the event each year is a “labour of love,” Crewe said, and one she’ll be starting to work on again early this spring. The best part of the event is that it’s local money that’s being invested in local businesses.

“It’s our rural municipalities, our chambers. It’s such a homegrown event, and that’s what I love,” Crewe said.

At the event, Neepawa Mayor Blake McCutcheon said the Big Idea event shows that the local community is “open for business.”

“The entrepreneurs get the support they need and the event is a great launching point for new businesses,” McCutcheon said.

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun