Now that’s an awesome idea
Awesome Calgary rewards the savvy with $1,000 cash
On the last Thursday of every month Calgarians gather to hear awesome ideas and watch as one person walks away $1,000 richer.
If that sounds awesome, you can thank Awesome Calgary, a chapter of the Awesome Foundation.
Every month four Calgarians are invited to pitch their great ideas, in 90 seconds, to a panel of foundation trustees and an audience of excited guests, at an event known as Thousand Dollar Thursday.
Trustees vote and award $1,000 to their favourite idea on the spot, no strings attached.
After pitching his idea at the Feb. 23 Thousand Dollar Thursday, Tim Barber was in pain.
“My leg started to hurt because I kept pinching myself because I thought I was dreaming,” says the formerly homeless Calgarian who excitedly shared his idea with the audience.
Dressed in a suit and tie, Barber spoke about his recently launched delivery business called Timmy’s Only, which delivers coffee and food to downtown businesses and employs homeless Calgarians.
His awesome idea was up against some tough competition.
Neil Egsgard told the audience about his idea of building a river surfing wave in Kananaskis, while Aoife Baldwin-maher talked about Art for Strangers, her idea of distributing free works of art to the public.
John Frosst spoke about his idea of putting on a multidisciplinary travelling Ford Festiva road show called Gumsphere 300 that aims to promote Alberta bands around North America.
In an Awesome Calgary first, there was a tie and not one but two people were awarded the grand prize.
Frosst and Barber’s ideas were deemed equally awesome and both received $1,000.
Barber was ecstatic with his win, wiping away tears as he accepted his prize.
He will spend the money on advertising, marketing, heating pads and a cart that can be wheeled around downtown in all seasons.
Launched in Boston in 2009, the Awesome Foundation is dedicated to “forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe.”
After hearing about the launch of the Toronto Awesome Foundation on the radio in January 2011 Awesome Calgary founder Lori Stewart was inspired to start a chapter in Calgary.
“I truly believe that great ideas need to be rewarded and people need to be supported in their ideas,” Stewart says.
The Calgary chapter hosted the first Thousand Dollar Thursday in April and has held an event, at a different location, every month since.
The monthly $1,000 grant is financed by 12 to 15 trustees— Calgarians from different walks of life, each donating $100 of their own money every month.
“I have to say there isn’t anyone on our team where that $100 a month doesn’t matter,” Stewart says.
“This isn’t a whole bunch of rich people who just want some feel-good experience. These are people who really care about supporting ideas in Calgary.”
Every month the trustees narrow down ideas submitted online to just four finalists.
Trustee Reg Tiangha says the foundation sees a lot of really great ideas (see sidebar) and it’s difficult choosing four finalists and then voting for one winner.
“Sometimes it’s heartbreaking that you can’t support them all,” says Tiangha.
While the $1,000 comes with no-strings-attached, Stewart says the social peer pressure that comes with publicly receiving $1,000, not to mention the knowledge that a team of trustees believes in your idea, typically means winners use their money appropriately.
“There’s no strings attached but I’m going to use this money for the business because that’s why I put my idea in,” says Barber.
Barber launched Timmy’s Only in January while living at a homeless shelter and has since moved into his own place in southwest Calgary. He heard about Awesome Calgary through a friend