Toronto Community Housing pitch contest for young entrepreneurs puts the spotlight on creative start-ups

TORONTO, January 8, 2019— Three innovators were chosen as most-likely to succeed in 2019 during the year-end entrepreneurial pitch contest held at George Brown College.

The winner of the $2,000 grand prize, Ermias Nagatu, co-created Wishplay, a virtual reality concept for children confined to hospital for long periods. His business idea touched the hearts and minds of both attendees and competitors. "I created a virtual reality experience using headset displays and 360 degree videos that immerse the viewer in that setting," Nagatu told judges.

Nagatu said his goal was to grant dying patients' last wishes and offer the virtual reality service as a non-profit enterprise. "I thought they would choose thrilling experiences but it was actually wishes like sitting at their favourite park or in a classroom," he explained.

Second Prize of $1,000 went to Alesha Stephenson, who has founded The Phoenix House, a not-for-profit organization geared towards the rehabilitation and social re-framing of at-risk men coming out of prison and young mothers facing child care and custody issues. A 3rd prize of $500 was awarded to Niasha Lewishenry for her innovative plan to combine her cooking and designing skills in a catering business, Delicious Decor, which also offers clients crafts services.

Toronto Community Housing Corporation's BE.BUILD.BRAND. is a 12-week entrepreneurship program that provides youth ages 18-29, with mentorship and capacity-building opportunities to equip them with the hard and soft skills needed to turn their ideas into viable business ventures.

Community and Economic Development Manager Nadia Gouveia says the program is just one of the ways TCHC invests in youth to help them realize their own potential: "Toronto Community Housing recognizes the talent within countless young people across our communities and also, the many barriers they face, and our entrepreneurship, scholarship and other youth-forward programs help youth achieve their goals."

Man wearing a VR headset

Grand prize winner Ermias Nagatu (left) demonstrates Wishplay, the virtual reality concept he helped co-create.

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About Toronto Community Housing:

Toronto Community Housing is Canada's largest social housing provider. We are owned by the City of Toronto and provide homes for nearly 60,000 low- and moderate-income households in more than 100 of the city's neighbourhoods. Our 2,100 buildings represent a $10-billion public asset.

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