Yasemin Beckers and Yutian Lin, co-founders of HomeFoods.

Yasemin Beckers and Yutian Lin, grade 11 students at Colonel By Secondary School in Ottawa and co-founders of HomeFoods.

A pair of local high school students are the youngest entrepreneurs ever to be accepted into Carleton’s Lead to Win program, a business acceleration program for startups with high growth potential.

Yasemin Beckers and Yutian Lin, both grade 11 students at Colonel By Secondary School in Ottawa’s east end, were accepted recently into Lead to Win with their venture HomeFoods, a mobile app and website that locates and directs users to ethnic food items in the National Capital Region.

To gain entry to the award-winning Lead to Win program, Beckers and Lin had to present their venture to and earn a green rating from a panel of external reviewers. This rating gives the team access to the Lead to Win’s wide-ranging entrepreneurial support, which includes workshops, support services, funding and use of the facilities in Carleton’s venture accelerator.

“After the initial shock passed, all we felt was excitement that HomeFoods had made it this far and excitement for all the new opportunities opened to us,” says Beckers. “We’d both put a great deal of work into achieving a green rating and knowing that our efforts had paid off made it all the more worthwhile. We also felt very grateful towards Dr. (Tony) Bailetti, who had been the one who made participating in Lead to Win possible for us.”

The idea for HomeFoods was born while Beckers and Lin were participating in the Technovation Challenge last winter. Delivered by Carleton Technology Innovation Management master’s students, the 12-week program challenged young women in high school from the Ottawa area to create a mobile app that would solve a common problem in society.

They were drawn to the idea of an app that locates specific groceries in local stores, but ruled out the idea as it lacked originality.

“We determined that, as immigrants, one of the dominant issues we all faced was the difficulty associated with locating our ethnic foods,” says Lin. “Building off this concept, we developed our initial idea, moving away from a grocery app toward an ethnic foods app that located ethnic products.”

Their team placed second in the challenge, but the experience inspired Beckers and Lin to continue to develop their idea.

“Having the rare opportunity to transform our ideas into reality and create something unique felt empowering,” says Beckers. “It was that sense of empowerment that first sparked our interest in entrepreneurship. Our interest increased further once we realized that through entrepreneurship, we could make a difference in our community and, one day, the world.”

Presently, Beckers and Lin are coding HomeFoods as an app and a website. Once completed, they plan to release their initial version. Using user feedback, they will update and further develop the app.

Lead to Win was recently ranked as 7th in North America among university business incubators by UBI Global, an international benchmarking organization based out of Stockholm. Lead to Win is led by founder and Sprott faculty member, Tony Bailetti.

Carleton University’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has been supporting startups and entrepreneurs in the Ottawa region over the past two decades, providing the training, support and resources to turn their ideas into successful ventures. Student entrepreneurs and recent graduates can access facilities, training, support and expertise through the Carleton campus-wide accelerator, led by the Sprott School of Business. Carleton delivers academic programs in entrepreneurship that include Sprott’s Bachelor of Commerce and Minor is Entrepreneurship, as well as the interdisciplinary Technology Innovation Management master’s program. The Carleton-led Lead to Win and Born Global programs support startups across the Ottawa region in their growth and expansion to international markets.

Monday, November 16, 2015 in ,
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