Reflecting on the Brandon University Business Conference 2023: “Re-Imagining Entrepreneurship” 

By Shirlyn Kunaratnam
December 12, 2023

The Brandon University Business Conference 2023, centered around the theme “Re-Imagining Entrepreneurship,” unfolded on Friday, November 24, 2023, at Evans Theatre, Brandon University. This gathering provided a dynamic platform for entrepreneurs, young and emerging entrepreneurs, academics, students, and non-academics to engage in a meaningful exchange of insights and knowledge. The day-long event featured keynote addresses, lightning sessions, research presentations, a panel discussion, and invaluable networking opportunities. 

Commencing with a gracious welcome from Dr. David Docherty, the President of Brandon University, and a profound land acknowledgement by Knowledge Keeper Ms. Susie McPherson, the event set a tone of respect and inclusivity. The keynote address by Ash Mohda, President and CEO of Mondetta Clothing Group, set a tone for the day. Ash Mohda emphasized innovative approaches to entrepreneurship, touching upon profit-sharing with employees, the integration of climate actions into business strategies, and the pivotal role of digital technologies in fostering business growth. 

The Lightning Sessions, facilitated by Professor Ravikiran Dwivedula in Evans, offered a diverse range of perspectives from local businesses. Entrepreneurs Sid Stevenson of Section 6 Brewing Company, Bernie Whetter from The Green Spot, James Chambers from Chez Angela, Ashleigh Hamm from Create Marketing, and Kim Vandaele of Century 21 shared their entrepreneurial journeys. Each speaker offered valuable insights into the challenges they faced, lessons learned, and tips for aspiring entrepreneurs. 

Sid underscored the significance of authenticity and innovation, urging entrepreneurs to operate transparently and remain prepared to confront any challenges that may arise. His emphasis on, planning the present by anticipating the future is the highlight of this introductory speech. 

Bernie underscored the importance of market knowledge, financial knowledge, relationship-building, and prepared to address human resources issues. His emphasis on a holistic understanding of business operations provided a comprehensive perspective for aspiring entrepreneurs. 

James highlighted the positive impact of businesses utilizing local products, emphasizing its contribution to the well-being of the local community. Furthermore, he stressed the importance of storytelling in business and advocated for pursuing ventures aligned with one’s strengths and passions, rather than solely chasing passion. 

Ashleigh delved into the challenges of marketing, shedding light on the pivotal roles of branding, relationship-building, and the importance of honesty in business interactions.  

Kim shared her extensive experience in the real estate business, framing it as a form of entrepreneurship. She touched upon the significance of risk-taking and offered encouragement to students, urging them not to be intimidated by challenges but rather to approach their interests with determination and resilience.  

The conference also delved into research presentations. Dr. Revati Ramrao Rautrao presented on “Entrepreneurial Competence as a Determinant of Entrepreneurial Success in the Indian Context,” while Dr. Alireza Moradi explored “Developing Entrepreneurial Intention through Gamification for Establishing Startups.” The latter aims to utilize gamification among unemployed youth to educate and motivate them to embark on entrepreneurial ventures. 

A networking lunch at Bailey’s at Brandon University provided a conducive environment for attendees to establish connections and foster collaborations. The afternoon session featured a captivating panel discussion moderated by Professor Lindsay McLachlan. Each panelist brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, contributing to a multifaceted exploration of entrepreneurship from diverse points.  

Ron Gauthier, CEO of CPHR, provided insights into the diversified nature of the work undertaken by Chartered Professionals.  

Bryce Scott from Sunrise Credit Union shared an overview of Sunrise’s services, serving through 19 branches across Manitoba, explaining the cooperative’s community-focused and member-owned ethos. 

Patsy Hewitt, the Business Advisor of MNP contributed to the discourse by delving into her experiences addressing challenges faced by SMEs, particularly within the agricultural sector. Her insights shed light on the services offered by MNP to navigate the complexities unique to agro-businesses. 

Jeff Fawcett, the Mayor of Brandon, offered insight to the current entrepreneurial landscape in Brandon. He shared about the collaboration with various organizations to actively promote and support entrepreneurship within the region and also about his own experience as an entrepreneur. 

Enver Naidoo, The Executive Director of Westman Immigration Services brought a unique perspective to the discussion, outlining the services provided by WIS and sharing success stories. Notably, he emphasized how WIS caters to skilled but underemployed workers and how their entrepreneurship hub extends crucial support services to economic class migrants. 

The later sessions included presentations by Dr. Edwin Francisco Ferrer Romero on “Challenges in Early-state Start-ups Business Model Identification” and Dr. Sheika Henry and Dr. Balfour Spence on “Business Continuity Management and Resilience Capacity Development in Southern Manitoba.”  

As a researcher at RDI and a Master student exploring the entrepreneurial landscape from the Community Economic Development perspective, this conference wasn’t just a date on the calendar but rather enriched my understanding of the entrepreneurship landscape in Brandon, providing valuable insights for future research and initiatives.