Inspiring budding entrepreneurs to achieve business success

Xiaoyong Liu, Jing Li, Gregory Vit
Dobson Cup winners Xiaoyong Liu (left) and Jing Li proudly display their award, with Professor Gregory Vit.

After Jing Li and Xiaoyong Liu, doctoral candidates in Civil Engineering and Biology, developed an effective and inexpensive way to produce environmentally friendly bio-plastics from waste sludge, they decided to turn their idea into a reality by entering the 2012 Dobson Cup business plan competition.

They survived the preliminaries to join 14 other teams in the third and final round, making their pitches before a panel of industry leaders serving as judges. When the assessments were tallied, Li and Liu were crowned the 2012 Dobson Cup winners and received $10,000 to develop their concept commercially. “This is just the beginning of the business; we have a long way to go,” says Liu.

The Dobson Cup is hosted annually by the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management. In addition to vying for prize money, participants also receive mentoring from the volunteer judges, who include many alumni. As Lui notes, “The experience and professional advice from the judges will illustrate the way for us to go.”

In 2009, the competition’s first year, 18 groups contended for $1,500 prize money. Two years later, thanks to a $500,000 gift to Campaign McGill from National Bank, the centre was able to offer $40,000 in prize money shared among the top five teams.

The 2012 competition involved 90 teams and 232 participants. Of these, a bit less than half came from the Desautels Faculty of Management and the remainder hailed from nine other faculties across campus. A not-for-profit parallel stream was also added in 2011, reflecting the growing significance of social enterprises.

“The prize money is a boost for these entrepreneurs,” says Professor Gregory Vit, Director of the Dobson Centre. “The National Bank gift provides that initial dose of rocket fuel that helps them get their projects off the ground.”

Students at the Desautels Faculty of Management will also soon benefit from the new Peter and Joan Monk Endowment for Entrepreneurship, established by Peter Monk, BCom’58, and Joan Monk, BA’58. The $1-million endowment will support initiatives related to ethical and social entrepreneurship, and help develop the Faculty’s Social Economy Initiative.

“Entrepreneurial ideas occur at the margins and require creativity, which often comes from an education that exposes people to ideas,” says Peter Monk. “My desire now is to give back to society, which I feel is part of being here on earth.”