April 17, 2023

UCalgary student finds unexpected passion in elective course

Haskayne School of Business program helps students develop their entrepreneurial skills
Ranique Mclaughlin In the audience at the 2022 RBC Fast Pitch Competition
Ranique Mclaughlin, left, in the audience at the 2022 RBC Fast Pitch Competition. Kelly Hofer

When Ranique Mclaughlin first registered for the ENTI 201 course at the Haskayne School of Business, she never imagined it would lead her to becoming the creator of her very own app. 

In fact, she says, taking the Introduction to Business Venturing course wasn’t even on her radar, given that she isn’t actually enrolled in a business degree, but rather third-year mathematics.

“ENTI 201 is not one of my requirements … it’s something that I stumbled into, and it’s been one of my best decisions to date,” says Mclaughlin. 

Both ENTI 201 — which is open to all students, regardless of major — and ENTI 317 (Entrepreneurial Thinking), which is required for Haskayne students, provide eligibility for the RBC Fast Pitch Competition, which involves participants developing business plans and presenting them to a panel of judges, with a chance of winning prize money. Led by the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Haskayne School of Business, RBC Fast Pitch is generously supported by the RBC Foundation.

ENTI 317 and ENTI 201 are unique among entrepreneurship classes as they don’t focus on new-venture development, but rather on skill development. The team teaching and supporting ENTI 317 won the D2L Innovation Award in 2022, presented by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, in partnership with D2L (Desire2Learn).

Mclaughlin went into 2022’s RBC Fast Pitch with an app she titled Bonded. The original plan for the app was to allow people to learn stories about local unhoused people and donate to them. It would also have been used to allow people to tip buskers and others who traditionally are cash-only. 

“I loved Bonded as I was working on it, and I still view it has a huge social issue that needs to be addressed,” says Mclaughlin. “I plan on continuing it someday, building up awareness and the right team, as well as collaborating with organizations like the Mustard Seed and Benevity.” 

Although Mclaughlin did not win the competition, the experience allowed her to reflect and go on to create her current app, Hidden Gemz.

Ranique Mclaughlin along with some of her Hidden Gemz team

Ranique Mclaughlin along with some of her Hidden Gemz team.

Ranique Mclaughlin

This app is targeted toward the Gen-Z population and will initially be aimed at a Calgary audience, with hopes to expand to other cities. By way of a location-based game, users will use the app to collect “hidden gems” throughout the city by attending events, eating at restaurants, and visiting other unique and fun locations. Similar to games like Pokémon Go, when users get close enough to a performer or events location, they will be able to see an augmented gem through their smartphone’s camera.

“It helps people by bringing recognition, engagement and large groups of people coming by at one time to support your business and your brand,” says Mclaughlin.

Jeff Ryzner, an innovation specialist with UCalgary’s Office of the Vice-President (Research), first met Mclaughlin when he was volunteering as a coach in her ENTI 201 class, and he has been her mentor ever since. 

“I think that there are short-term wins and long-term wins,” he says. “Short-term wins, if Ranique’s project gets out there, we are going to have a much more amazing and vibrant city of Calgary and probably other cities in Canada as well, as she scales.

But the long-term win is investing in the person and Ranique may have 20 ideas she wants to commercialize, she may have a few more business ideas that she would like to scale, and so, working with her, I’m basically investing in her project and her — and a better world at the same time.

Ryzner says he believes competitions like RBC Fast Pitch can help students build a network for the future. “It’s the people that you meet; there’s going to be people watching this that get inspired by your pitch and may want to help you in the future,” he says. “So, building your startup team, meeting investors, meeting other organizations that can help you along the way … there’s a lot of people to meet out there, and these competitions are a great way to do that.”

Mclaughlin spent the first year developing Hidden Gemz on her own, which she says was helpful in learning more about herself and what she is capable of. However, she is now building up a team and is excited to have more people to collaborate with. 

“All together, we are a group of ambitious students looking to disrupt the tourism industry,” says Mclaughlin.

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