The young man from Corner Brook pitched a social enterprise idea at Startup Weekend in the city this past weekend. It was selected as one of seven ideas explored throughout the event held at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, a team was assigned to work on it, and it was eventually awarded the Startup Newfoundland and Labrador Cup.
Mercer, a masters student at the Environmental Policy Institute at Grenfell, has been studying community sustainability and renewable energy in Newfoundland and Labrador. His business idea is a small-scale, renewable energy company aiming to offer wind energy solutions to off-grid or remote communities.
Despite some of the strongest wind energy potential in North America, the province still relies a lot on fossil fuel energy, he said. There are also some 30 remote communities throughout the province which rely exclusively on diesel fuel, he said.
Positive Energy Newfoundland and Labrador — the proposed company’s name — would offer a solution to this problem.
“First of all, we are helping society move away from fossil fuels to a clean energy future,” he said of the social enterprise concept of the company. “But, most importantly, what we are pledging to do is to give a portion of all our revenue back to remote communities who can’t afford adequate access to electricity.”
Mercer said Startup Weekend was an amazing experience. He learned a lot about business, but was also inspired by the enthusiasm of the organizers, business people, and potential entrepreneurs who participated. Four other students and academic and a business representatives teamed up with Mercer to explore the idea.
“Sure we got enough support to win the competition, and it was great that people thought we had a good idea, but there were so many other excellent ideas pitched throughout the competition,” he said. “...It was great to see the entrepreneurial spirit of all the people in Corner Brook striving to make this a better place and create opportunity.”
The team appears willing to pursue the idea, according to Mercer, and they developed the business plan as part of the event. The next step would be to register as a business, and try to make a go of it.
He believes all seven pitches were viable businesses, and that something like that can be launched in Corner Brook during a weekend bodes well for the sustainability and growth of the region.