TheSTAGE: SpitStrips and Candy Cutlery

Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) Canada is a non-profit organization led by dedicated post-secondary students, housed within Ryerson University. SAGE strives to advance youth development and community engagement, while nurturing an innovative environment. Students are given opportunities to start their own business ventures, while being taught the importance of emphasizing ethical business practices, social responsibility, civic engagement, and environmental awareness.

One of SAGE's premier events is TheSTAGE, which is a national competition where socially-innovative youth ventures compete for a chance to represent Canada globally as youth entrepreneurs. The 2017 global competition was held in Odessa, Ukraine, where ventures from 21 countries participated. Representing Canada were 2 teams: Candy Cutlery, manufacturers of edible eating and drinking utensils, and SpitStrips, creators of a strip that detects alcohol levels based on saliva.

We asked Candy Cutlery CEO Lyn Chen and SpitStrips CEO Michal Moshkovich to share some reflections from their trip to Odessa.

Briefly, what did you do while in the Ukraine for SAGE Globals?

Lyn Chen (Candy Cutlery): While in the Ukraine, our Canadian team had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bond, share our culture and learn about other a foreign country! It was an amazing experience, a great combination of play and work. It was a huge celebration of young entrepreneurs from ages 6 to 19 - everyone was doing something with impact in every part of the world. Some key activities include networking with other countries, country night (where we showcased our Canadian diversity on-stage), a cultural outing (SAGE Global took us to an Opera house) and more.

Michal Moshkovich (SpitStrips): We were able to experience so much during our stay in Ukraine. We made so many friends from a variety of different countries! Without a doubt, the “Multicultural Day” was our favourite event at SAGE Global. We learned a lot about the cultures of many countries, and we were able to keep so many antiques and souvenirs! Then came the cultural performances, where each team would create a performance reflective on their country’s culture, and present it to a massive audience. Each and every country had amazing performances, truly making it a night to remember.
The presentation was a mix of emotions: from the nervous feelings we got when we went up on stage, to the embarrassing moments, to the relief of finally hearing the audience’s applause - it was definitely a rollercoaster ride that will be treasured for a long time! SAGE Global was not just all fun and games, it was also quite intense and competitive- each team worked hard and prepared a lot for the competition. Following the competition, we watched an amazing Opera performance held in Odessa. On the last day, our team decided to spend the day at the beach and soak in the beauty of the Black Sea. In the evening, we went to the Gala, an amazing celebration to conclude an even better SAGE Experience.

What was the biggest "a-ha" you had while you were there?

Michal : Our biggest aha moment was not just one moment, but rather, several instances that led us to the same point: understanding the untapped potential of our product. In the first round of the competition, one of our questions came from a judge who was a lawyer, and she asked, out of her own interest, if she could use a SpitStrip in a court of law with the same functionality as a breathalyzer. We were also approached by the Ireland team, who asked us if they could use our product on a trip they were taking their organization's underage workers on, to ensure the workers were not intoxicated. With networking and discussing the entire trip, it was almost as if the entire experience was a series of aha moments. We want to make our product as widespread as possible to save as many lives as we can, and after hearing the input of people from over 30 countries in the world on our product, we came home with even more ideas than we already had on how to do so.

Lyn : The biggest a-ha moment our team experienced was how connected we are to our international friends by our respective businesses. It seems that we were all trying to solve something significant to our countries and our values. For example, South Korea is creating smart. job search engines because they see youth unemployment as a crucial problem. Candy Cutlery is trying to solve an environmental pain point with edible utensils - at the same time, South Africa was passioned about environment as well with their plastic bag mattresses. Somehow, the "business model canvas" became our universal language to relate to each other to.

What insights from SAGE Global would you pass along to other young entrepreneurs?

Michal: SAGE Global is an extremely beneficial experience for youth entrepreneurs. It provides the opportunity to network, create meaningful friendships, earn valuable business experience, and most importantly, have a great time! Our team would definitely recommend other startups going! The competition puts you out of your comfort zone and gives you the opportunity to take risks, which really helped us evolve. SAGE Global was a wonderful bonding experience for us- we went through both stressful and enjoyable times, which overall helped the team dynamic, a crucial skill in running a startup. Through our observations, we realized that building a business takes a tremendous amount of time and effort - the best businesses we saw were the ones with the most effort put into them. Overall, we truly enjoyed the SAGE Global competition in Ukraine! We were given the opportunity to make friends from all over the globe, meet many people, and share our idea on a global stage. For those startups considering SAGE, we have some advice for you: Just. Do. It.

Lyn: You're never too young to do something good for the world. Seize the moment, identify a problem and show the world how Gen Z can change the world. :)

Click to learn more about Candy Cutlery and SpitStrips and find out how to get involved in SAGE Canada.
Thanks to both businesses for sharing their thoughts with SAGE Canada and Y2 Entrepreneurship Labs.