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From Venture Challenge to Ingenious+

Recently, we caught up with The Smarker team (Maiya Peters, Raya Rehmat, James Raham, Jeffery Lee, and Dmitri Folomeyev) to see what they’ve been up to as well as had them share about their recent experience pitching at Ingenious+ in Victoria.

You were all YELL Entrepreneurship students together at Handsworth Secondary School. Tell me a bit about your experience in the program and your biggest takeaway from it:

(MP) Participating in YELL was more than just a learning experience for all of us. It showed us how to bring our creative ideas into the real world. Winning the Venture Challenge was amazing, but the greatest accomplishment was having investors seek our product after the pitch to turn Smarker’s hypothetical idea into a possible real-world solution. The concept behind Smarker could make a real difference in skin cancer prevention, and having investors interested was an incredible validation of our hard work. This experience made us feel like we were making a tangible impact and boosted our confidence, showing us what we can achieve when creative minds work towards a common goal. 

The Smarker took 1st place at the 2022/2023 Venture Challenge, tell us about it:

(RR) The Smarker is a UV-sensing marker that changes colour when one is at risk of getting sunburnt. This solution has the power to save lives from skin cancer, one swoosh at a time. With just one dot of the Smarker applied to the skin, its photochromic pigment ink will turn from completely clear to blue when enough UV light has hit it. When you see the colour, it’s time to reapply. The photochromic powder used in this ink contains no harsh chemicals, has been clinically tested, and is completely safe for skin contact. To address the needs of different skin tones, we have created four different variations of the Smarker. Each variation of our product has a different ratio of UV sensing ink, which allows for the blue pigment to appear at different times. Our marker’s broad spectrum of colour intensity meets all customers’ needs and promotes inclusivity. Based on your skin’s needs, you can buy the Smarker that is best fit to you!

What is the Ingenious+ Pitch Competition and why did you decide to enter it this year?

(JR) The Ingenious+ Pitch Competition is an innovation competition for high school students across Canada. The competition is designed to help accelerate the process of creating a fully-functioning business or product, through funding and mentoring. I actually found out about the competition through YELL Canada, through an Instagram post. I told the rest of our group, and we decided it was the perfect opportunity to showcase our product and business, Smarker, in another exciting setting.

Tell me about your experience at Ingenious+:

(JR) We had a phenomenal time throughout this process. Coming back as a team and working with one another once again was a privilege and sparked our creativity and innovation. We got to work, filming a video pitch and writing numerous question responses. After months of planning and crafting our business presentation, we sent in our award application. Eventually, we were told that we won Ingenious+ for the British Columbia riding! It was hosted at Government House in Victoria. The award ceremony was very special. The Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Janet Austin, was in attendance and gave a speech. It was truly a privilege to attend this fantastic event with so many smart and – ingenious – people. It reminded me of my experience at YELL, connecting with so many amazing individuals. I would like to thank YELL Canada for helping my fellow business team members and I find this opportunity and further our aspirations to make the world a better place through innovation. In a world with so much hatred, violence, and truly horrific issues, I believe it is our responsibility to come together to make a positive change. This is only a small step in that process – but I hope it will inspire myself, my team members, and people everywhere to try and make a difference in their lives. Let’s use our lives to make the world a better place. 

So what’s next for Team Smarker? 

(JL) I will be studying at UofT to pursue finance. I hope to become involved within the business world working in private equity or investment banking so that I can help others achieve the same path that I travelled. 

(MP) This fall, I will be attending the University of British Columbia pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce. I aspire to pursue a career as either an accountant or corporate marketing manager, aiming to collectively collaborate and share my creative ideas within a professional setting.

(JR) I will be studying business and hopefully astrophysics or a creative discipline at the University of British Columbia. I aspire to lead a team within the space research and exploration industry or creative sector to foster change, community, and growth for the benefit of humanity.

(RR) I will be studying both business and dance at the University of Washington this fall. I am hoping to bring innovation to the dance world in my future career, with the goal of establishing a wellness focused dance centre. 

(DF) I will be studying in Simon Fraser University due to their Europe exchange program and multitude of case competitions that take place in Europe. With the goal of running my own legal and finance company in the future utilizing all the skills I have learned and will learn. With the numerous connections in Europe I’m sure to make some good friends.

Congrats Team Smarker on all your accomplishments! Good luck in your post-secondary studies and your future endeavours – we can’t wait to catch up again in the future!