CNC's associate dean Muhammad Rahman, students Joses Lee, Neha Clair, Shannon Fairservice and Bernadeth Pestano, and coach Tao Xu (left to right) celebrate their three category victories at the Western Canadian Business Competition for college students. (photo courtesy College of New Caledonia)

Quesnel CNC student wins at Western Canadian Business Competition

Neha Clair used a bagel and a mind for business to score college points

While she was winning awards at the Western Canadian Business Competition, Neha Clair noticed she was also winning with the school she chose.

Clare was on the team of four that represented the College of New Caledonia (CNC) at the annual WCBC challenge. Each member was a business student at the college, coming together on their own time to establish a fictitious business and compare it with six other college teams from throughout the province.

It compared extremely favourably. Clare said that she’d heard professors talk about how CNC’s business education was good quality, but seeing the results in action was proof beyond doubt.

“It was a demonstration of that,” she said. “You start to think ‘oh, we’re just a rural northern school’ but outdid them, in every area, and so did Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, over these bigger Vancouver-area schools,” she said. “I think CNC is under-credited for what it actually offers. I grew up in Quesnel with a lot of people who moved away from the area as soon as they could, and I don’t know if they appreciated just what we’ve got right here, and how much value they (CNC) bring to their students.”

She lists professors like Brian Barber and Bruce Bennett “who is honestly an inspiration and role model for me,” and the small classes as strong factors in favour of the local post-secondary experience.

Joining Quesnel’s Clair on the WCBC team were Shannon Fairservice, Bernadeth Prestano and Joses Lee. They travelled to Douglas College to compete, the first time the event had been held since the COVID closures. There were several categories, as each team demonstrated in different ways how their company would operate successfully. To make sure the playing field was level, all teams had the same business concept to work with: a camera and drone business.

The CNC team made the podium three times. They won first place in the coveted Strategic Plan category and added two second place finishes for Simulation Score and overall Junior Division.

“A lot of sacrifices were made to make that strategic plan what it was. To hear it won first, wow, it felt so great to know that all paid off,” said Clair. “The really special part about our group was it was a group of very introverted people and when we talked about our shared goals, everybody wanted to challenge themselves, to get out of our shells. We were really scared. I was terrified. I’m really, really proud we did it.”

So, with all the work a student has to do academically, plus employment (Clair worked at TD Bank in Quesnel and transferred to Prince George for this second year of her diploma after completing the first year at home), and introversion as a personality trait, why take on a project like this?

“I’m the person to just say ‘you only have so many opportunities in life…just go and do it.’ And I was so honoured that I was even considered to be a part of it. Why would I not do this?,” she said. “This was a great opportunity to put everything I’ve learned here so far at CNC into a real business-life setting. It was awesome. I loved it. It pushed me to my very limits, but it was great.”

Their company was called Bagel Inc. Bagels have nothing to do with drones or cameras. That was the point, and the marketplace differentiation scored the team some points in the competition. Clair said it was Joses Lee who suggested the disruptive name “and it honestly really helped us to stand out…it was very brave.”

The inspiration was the bitten apple so iconicly symbolic of the Apple tech company. Originally, that apple was chosen as a visual link to their flagship Macintosh computer. It had nothing to say about technology or product systems. Bagel Inc. traded on that theme: clean, simple, gripping, evocative, nonthreatening. It was a big hit with fellow business students, competitors and judges alike.

Their educators were impressed at how well baked Bagel Inc. was.

Wendy Male, CNC’s dean of human services, university transfer, and business studies, said “their success is indicative of the high quality of education and preparation that the College of New Caledonia provides. Their dedication, work ethic, and strategic thinking resulted in this accomplishment. I have no doubt they will continue to achieve great things in the future, and we are honored to have played a role in their education and success.”

Muhammad Rahman, an associate dean at CNC, said “They conducted themselves well and presented their case professionally, with poise.”

After a year at CNC Quesnel, and a year at CNC Prince George, Clair is now moving up the degree ladder to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Human Resource Management.

“I know there are some other students who commute back and forth, but I’m going to go all-in and live (in Prince George),” she said, but don’t assume that means she’ll be gone of good from B.C.’s heart of gold city. “I miss Quesnel and my family. I just love my family to bits, and I go see them to revive me. I love Quesnel; I love my city.”

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