Oct 15, 2018
Senior Communication Specialist
Bow Valley College
Bow Valley College VentureQuest finalist braving 45 chilly nights to test ‘LO8OP Home in a Bag’ concept
CALGARY, AB – The nights may be chillier in Calgary, but Micah Louison isn’t fazed. In fact, he welcomes the inclement weather to test his “LO8OP Home in a Bag” tent while camping outside his family’s Northeast Calgary home and the Bridgeland area until the end of this month.
It was a year ago when Louison, 24, who was a student at Bow Valley College at the time, placed third in the college’s VentureQuest competition, where entrepreneurial students compete for seed money, support, branding and business planning assistance. Since his win, he has been able to build and field-test the first version of his innovative and socially conscious tent.
The LO8OP (pronounced ‘loop’) Home in a Bag sets up in 90 seconds into a breathable, durable, reflective, and waterproof structure that can hold a sleeping bag and personal items. The dynamic movement of the structure requires minimal setup and no poles—everything works as a single unit. When folded, it can be carried like a backpack. It can also connect with other units so families can stay close.
Louison’s prototype aims to provide protection and connection for those who are affected by displacement, natural disaster and alternatively, it can serve as durable camping gear for recreational purposes. He says inspiration for the product came from his own harrowing experience in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan ripped through his city in Grenada.
“My school and neighbourhood were destroyed and my family knew we couldn’t stay, so we made our way up to Canada,” he states. “From my point of view, a shelter is the most minimal thing you can have after a disaster passes. Having something you need when you’ve lost everything is powerful.”
His goal is to endure the elements until October 29 in order to raise funds to build the concept into a commercially grade product. He has launched a crowdfunding campaign with ATB BoostR and hopes to reach his $7,000 target by that time.
Craig Elias, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Bow Valley College, spearheads VentureQuest. He says Louison’s idea has staying power due to the social impact and community perspective.
“He found a way to put a bunch of things to make it more compelling and he’s doing all the things that an entrepreneur should. I love his 45-day program, especially in this weather.”
Elias says has encountered several students who have great ideas, but they often lack resources and know-how to get started.
“After all the training and knowledge they take in, the real change comes when they do their pitch,” he adds. “When they get to the point to develop enough confidence to pitch to 100 strangers, they are ready to do more. Entrepreneurship isn’t just what you learn in class, it’s what you do outside of class, like networking, presentations, and fundraising.”
Now in his third week, the tent structure has held up through hail storms, rain, over 25 cm of snow and below-average temperatures. He says the experience is providing insight into the prototype’s durability and the harsh reality of those living without a safe space.
“The first week really had an impact on me,” he says. “I felt vulnerable—that my wellbeing would be in jeopardy. I started to take in what it actually means to not have any shelter and a support system. Then I felt guilty because I can always go into my house. For people not as fortunate as me, they don’t have shelter. That motivates me to stay out here.”
Louison says he is already focusing on the second iteration that will allow users to pack food, water, and clothing. It will also feature solar panels to allow for charging phones, a laptop or tablet.
“My third version will have a cell phone panel to access the Internet through our ‘NoMadFree’ application,” he says. “It would be great to partner with agencies to see if Home in a Bag works in disaster situations. Not only can they provide LO8OP for displaced people, they can also position tents in areas with monitoring equipment inside to track what’s going on, such as damage assessments and weather updates.”
About Bow Valley College VentureQuest Program
VentureQuest is a partnership between Bow Valley College, RBC Business Accelerator and Repsol HUB for Social Enterprise. The Business Idea Competition gives Bow Valley College students the chance to refine their entrepreneurial idea, business plan, branding, sales pitch and production—all with the help of the college, the community, sponsors and industry leaders across Alberta. To date, over $90,000 (cash and in-kind services) has been awarded.
Applications for the 2019 competition are being accepted until Sunday, November 4, 2018. It is open to Bow Valley College students in good standing, in any course or program, from any of our eight campus locations. For more information, visit www.bowvalleycollege.ca/venturequest. For industry leaders, business owners and mentors who want to take part as an advisor, judge or sponsor, contact Craig Elias at 403-874-2998 or email email@example.com.
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Attachments (Two Photographs) – Cutline for either - Micah Louison, 24, founder of LO8OP (Home in a Bag) and the third-place winner at the Bow Valley College 2018 VentureQuest Competition in Calgary, Alberta, is camping outside for 45 days until October 29 to test his emergency shelter which can be deployed in a natural disaster. Photo by Chris Bolin / Bow Valley College. NOTE: These photos were taken Thursday - October 11, 2018.
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Bow Valley College - Calgary and region's only Comprehensive Community College - with more than 15,000 full- and part-time students, is a leader in business and health career training, community studies, creative technologies, adult upgrading, and English Language Learning.