Interview with finalist Hannah Bell

Hannah Bell was a finalist in the 2nd Annual Canadian Global Impact Competition. Hannah’s idea: low cost, high speed, high quality ‘wireless internet anywhere‘. Hannah comes from Charlottetown, PEI, she is the CEO of BFN Tech PEI. Hannah believes access to information via the internet improves outcomes for education, healthcare, economic opportunities, safety, and global connections, but the cost of infrastructure is a barrier to equal access in rural and low income economies.

Q. What was it like to be selected as a finalist this year? What was the reaction from your colleagues, friends and family?

It was amazing, overwhelming, an incredibly challenging experience – and really hard to explain to others. If this was hockey, it would have been the front page of the paper – like getting called up in the draft. The local media in Charlottetown, PEI called it ‘Dragons Den for Geeks’ which seemed to work for some. My colleagues, including team and my staff from my other roles, were thrilled and so excited for me – they helped me prep and plan, and understood how challenging this was, even for a business professional.

Q. What positive outcomes did you experience from participating in the Canadian Global Impact Competition?

Validation and recognition of the importance of social enterprise – that it is a viable approach to solving problems; great to connect with other like-minded individuals, especially mentors and organizers. And, exposure from the event for our project is invaluable.

Q. Will you continue to work on your idea/business? Has participating in the Canadian Global Impact Competition affected the way you are approaching your idea/business?

We reworked our business model to reflect the great input and insight from mentors and industry experts – full business plan has been pitched to angel investors and we are currently in negotiations with a serious investor to implement the pilot as described in the Competition.

Q. Did you connect with a local business support organization leading up to the competition? Did they provide help? How did it go?

I am the lead of the local support organization (in fact, for two of them – Startup Charlottetown and PEI Business Women’s Association) so should know what I’m doing! I did seek informal support via mentoring from some other professional contacts locally, but nothing formal. Our local market is challenged with an inward focus and lack of creativity – that’s why it important to be able to access other routes for startups and demonstrate success.

 Q. Did you make any business connections during the Canadian Global Impact Competition that will help your idea/business?

Yes – currently still in development but definitely some good contacts for business development and expansion. Most will wait to see what we do with the pilot first, we think.

 Q. You were the People’s Choice Award winner. We couldn’t help but notice how influential the #PEI community was on social media during the voting period. What was their reaction when you were announced as the People’s Choice winner?

The support before, during and after the event from the PEI community was phenomenal – I have a strong social media and community development presence, as does my team, and there are a number of key community influencers who rallied the troops to ensure we won the People’s Choice award. I am continually being stopped by people who tell me they watched the pitch online, or knew about it – and who thought we should have won, but they’re still pretty pleased we brought home the People’s Choice Award.

Q. Do you have any words of wisdom or inspirational thoughts for other thought leaders who want to make positive change in Canada or the world?

Change is everybody’s responsibility – you can’t complain about how things are unless you’re willing to do something about it.

Don’t just talk about doing it – go and do it.

Age doesn’t matter – you can be brilliant even if you’re no longer in your youth – you just need more coffee.