Tiffany Howes won’t find it difficult to spend $10,000.
As the winner of this year’s Nitsopoulos Family Entrepreneurship Award, Howes will use the cash infusion that comes with the honour to pay off loans and other start-up costs incurred when she founded Electric Jam, her graphic and web design business, in January.
Brushing up on web code, search engine optimization, advertising and marketing Electric Jam will also get a bit more attention now.
“I need a lot more exposure in Niagara,” said Howes, who graduated with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2011. “Just because I’m here doing work doesn’t mean people know I exist.”
The Nitsopoulos Award, named after prominent local hotelier Angelo Nitsopoulos, is meant to boost fledgling businesses started by Brock graduates in Niagara and encourage the young entrepreneurs to stay in the region after graduation.
Nitsopoulos sits on the awards selection committee and said Howes’s application stood out from the other four candidates this year because she made it very clear where she wants to live and work.
“She was very committed to building her business and staying in Niagara,” Nitsopoulos said. “She had some skin in the game and we felt she would be the one to survive and stay in Niagara.”
This is the sixth year the awards have been handed out and Nitsolpoulos noted that all of the past recipients are still in business and in the region.
“They’re all successful,” he said. “Keeping young people here in Niagara is important.”
Howes began making her mark in graphic design while attending Brock, doing design work for the Brock Press and the University’s radio station, CFBU. She also donated her talents to create promotional materials for local art shows in which she was often an exhibitor.
“That was the neat thing about going to Brock,” Howes said. “Even though I was learning and practising fine arts, I was doing graphic design for the Brock Press and the radio station.”
But it was the process of applying for the Nitsopoulos award that really cemented what Howes wants to do with Electric Jam.
Contenders have to present their case for candidacy in writing and in person to a review committee.
“It was a lot of work and I appreciate that because it makes you re-think your direction and re-think what you thought you knew,” Howes said. “Coming from the creative side, I don’t have as much of a business background. I need to make up for this side that I’ve never been trained in and (the committee members) are all professionals.”