About The Contest



About The Contest

Starting a wildfire

Here’s what you’ll need to do for your chance at $25,000 in funding and a year of mentorship.

1. Attend a free workshop on social business (optional)

These are offered around the city of Toronto and are not mandatory for submitting a video, but your video will get 2 bonus points if you attend one.

2. Record a 45-to-90-second video of your social business idea.

You can record your own video or attend our workshops and have your video recorded professionally! Make sure you take advantage of the resources on this website and improve your pitch according to the criteria.

3. Upload your idea [closes May 25]

Once you have your video ready create a profile and upload your pitch.

4. Spread the word and get as many votes as you can. Get to the top 20.

Our jury will review your video if you make it to the top 20 most voted submissions and give it a score based on our ranking criteria. We’ll also pick 5 ‘wildcard’ videos that didn’t make it to the top 20 – these will also receive a score from the jury but will not get any points for their ranking in the voting.

5. The top 10 ideas (as ranked by the jury) will make it to the finals.

Each of the 10 finalists will work with our experienced business mentor team for 6 weeks to create a business plan based on their idea, and then present their business plan and a 5-minute in-person pitch to the jury.

6. One winner will received $25,000 in funding and 4 runners-up will receive $2,500.

Our jury will pick the winners based on their business plan and pitch. All 5 winners will receive a full year of mentorship with our mentorship team, along with free education and other resources to help them get their wildfire started!

The Process


Project Wildfire is open to all youth in the city of Toronto, from ages 19-29. Entries may be submitted on behalf of a group, however the group should comprise no more than 3 members of whom at least 2 should be aged 19-29.

Please note: Project Wildfire is a project to incubate social business ideas, not community projects or nonprofit organizations. Your idea must be for a profit generating business that also has a social/environmental mission, and it must be in the idea phase – we will not fund/incubate businesses that are already launched.

Pitch Criteria

Pitches will be judged – and voters are asked to keep these criteria in mind – on the following criteria:

1. Vote Count (10 pts): If you make it to the top 20, you’ll get a score based on your placement in the rankings (1st place = 10 points, 20th place = 1 point)

2. Originality of Idea (5 points): Is there some originality to this pitch, or is it something that has been done many times before?

3. Scaleability (5 pts): Can the business be scaled (i.e. grown) and transferred to other locations?

4. Passion (5 pts): How well does your passion come through in your pitch? Passion will be an important factor in determining the business’ success.

5. Feasibility (10 pts): How realistic is it to turn your idea into a viable business?

6. Social Benefit (15 pts): How well will your business address the social problems you want to solve? Ideas that have a well-defined way to measure social impact will score better!

You’ll also get 2 bonus points if you attend one of our workshops.

Video Tips

Here are some tips for creating a compelling video pitch for your social business idea that will get lots of votes and a high score from the jury. Make sure you also read the pitch criteria. These are the criteria that the jury will be using to rank your video, and that we will suggest to people voting on the site.

  • Your video has to be between 45 and 90 seconds (we’ll delete it if it’s not in this range). Rehearse your pitch several times, making note of the time elapsed. Write yourself a script and adjust it if your pitch is too long or too short.
  • Let your passion shine through. If you want your business to be a success, you’re going to have to put your heart and soul (and a lot of sweat) into it – show us that heart and soul!
  • Although it’s optional, we strongly recommend adding a text description and a short bio to your video when you upload your video. This will give people browsing videos a quick glance at you and your idea and give them more information to go on when deciding whether or not to vote on your video.
  • Keep in mind that a social business needs to be a successful business first of all, or it won’t have any social benefit at all when it fails. Customers will not buy from you just to help others if your product is inferior to what’s already out there. Your product/service needs to be great – this is what will lead to a successful, profitable and growing business which will lead to more social benefit. Most successful social enterprises don’t even mention the social aspect of their business in their marketing – they simply focus on why their product/service is better than the competition’s.


1) What’s the product/service? Be specific and focused – don’t talk about the million things your company will do, talk about the one thing it will do amazingly well.

2) Why is it different than what’s already out there, and how will it improve on what’s out there? It’s often easiest to make a comparison, and then show how it’s different – for example, Tylenol’s original ad campaign was “It’s like Aspirin – but it doesn’t make your stomach hurt”. This makes it easy to understand for viewers.

3) How will you make money with this business? (how will it turn a profit) Because this will be a business, and not a nonprofit/charity, it has to be structured in a way that will generate revenue and profit.

4) Who are your customers (who is your target market)? Be as specific as possible (e.g. Mothers aged 29 to 39 in the downtown core, who care about the products their children use.

5) How will your business deliver a social benefit? Outline what the business’ social mission is and outline how you will measure its social impact (for instance, if your idea is to start a courier company that employs the homeless, then your social mission is to get people off the streets and your social impact measurement will be the number of homeless people that you employ and get off the street)

6) Why are you the right person/people for this opportunity? What skills/experience/passion do you bring to the opportunity that others don’t?

If you would like to get feedback on your pitch, you can schedule an in-person pitch consultation with the Project Wildfire team. Contact us at wildfire@socialinnovation.ca to schedule your consultation.

What’s a Social Business?

A social business, or social enterprise is, in a nutshell, a cause-based business that serves the greater good. Unlike traditional businesses that focus solely on the bottom line, a social enterprise also has a mandate to provide a social benefit. Unlike charities or nonprofits, social businesses use market-based strategies to achieve a social goal (such as reducing homelessness), blending profit and purpose into one seamless whole.

Examples of a social business:

-a restaurant that donates a meal to the poor for ever meal that it sells.
-a clothing company that employs new immigrants
-a company that makes previously unaffordable services or goods affordable to the poor (such as Aravind Eye Care Hospitals
-a company that donates a significant portion of its profits to charity or nonprofit organizations (at least 50% for consideration by Project Wildfire)
-a construction company that employs people recovering from addictions

Like a traditional business, a social business/enterprise must be profitable in order to be sustainable, the social mission should not, and cannot, override the business’ need to make a profit, or it will fail. Read more about social business here, here, and here.

Case Study: Grameen Bank

One of the most successful social businesses in the world is Grameen Bank, based in Bangladesh. Started in 1976 to provide microloans to impoverished small-scale entrepreneurs, Grameen Bank has served millions of customers, helping them to escape poverty by starting successful small businesses, and turning a profit while doing it. This profit enables the bank to then serve even greater numbers of the poor.

Grameen has since branched out into dozens of social businesses, providing low-cost phones, eyeglasses and numerous other services that were traditionally beyond the reach of most of Bangladesh’s poor.

How to Spread Your Wildfire

In order to make it to the finals, your idea is going to need a lot of votes. So start spreading your idea like a wildfire! Here are a few suggestions:

1) email all your friends and family the link to your video. Ask them to vote on it repeatedly.

2) Share your idea on Facebook. Don’t forget to post a link to your video page at our Facebook Page!

3) Share your idea on Twitter. Tweet using @wildfireto or #wildfireto

4) Post the URL for your video page in your email signature

5) Talk about it as much as you can and tell people to go to the website and search for your video.

What if I don’t win?

Sure, it’s great if you are one of the winners and you get funding for your business and a full year of mentorship. But what if you aren’t one of the winners?

Rest assured that we’re not going to leave you in the cold. We want to help and support

Free ongoing workshops: Project Wildfire will offer a number of free workshops on a variety of topics related to social business and entrepreneurship. [more]

Access to additional sources of funding: We are working with several project partners to make low-interest business loans available to our project participants.

Online Resources: Our project partners at the Ryerson Entrepreneur Institute have numerous podcasts and downloadable resources available to help you on your way to business success. [more]