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U of S commerce student aims to WakeUp youth to the lake life

By in News
I’m on a boat! Toran Dobni, the mind behind WakeUp apparel, kicks back in the Martin Motorsports showroom.

Toran Dobni wasn’t planning to launch his non-profit clothing company until January.

But when the Wilson Centre on campus approached Dobni’s entrepreneurship class looking for an Edwards School of Business representative to present at the centre’s Nov. 14 Pitch Party, his friend jokingly suggested Dobni should pitch WakeUp Apparel.

“I kind of brushed him off, but the rest of the class I was thinking, ‘Maybe I should,’ ” the fifth-year management student said.

He decided to sign up for the pitch and had just 10 days to finalize his business plan before the event.

He still had to build a website, finalize WakeUp’s logo, register the company as a non-profit and send out an order for the shirts.

“I got the shirts the day of the pitch,” Dobni said. “The T-shirts were still warm when people were buying them. They had just got off the dryers. It was crazy. I was shocked that I got them in that time.”

Dobni’s pitch was successful. The audience, which included the centre’s founder Brett Wilson, best known for his appearances on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, chose the non-profit apparel company as their favourite pitch.

WakeUp currently sells T-shirts and tank tops, but Dobni hopes to start selling hoodies by Christmas and, eventually, expand to hats and other apparel.

He plans to put the company’s profits towards running youth wakeboarding camps in Saskatchewan.

Dobni plans to run the camps at Blackstrap Lake this summer. They will allow kids who would not normally have the opportunity to visit a Saskatchewan lake the chance to wakeboard alongside nationally certified coaches for a day.

Dobni said that any money the organization brings in will stay within the company and that the company’s expenses will likely be split evenly between administration costs, like marketing and making the shirts, and the camps.

The camps’ expenses will include the costs of equipment, boats, gas, food, travel, insurance and coaches, but Dobni hopes that most of these costs will be minimized as interest in WakeUp increases.

“The camps consist of a full day of activities. What we’ll do, first thing in the morning, is take the kids out on the lake, give them a semi-professional demonstration on wakeboarding,” Dobni said.

“Half the kids will stay out on the boat, take lessons and maybe get up on a wakeboard or water skis… while the second group stays on shore and takes part in some interactive leadership and positive life-choices-type sessions.”

Dobni has thrown the idea out to Big Brothers and Big Sisters Saskatoon and while he said a partnership between WakeUp and the charity is not official, he is optimistic that the organization will come on board.

“Big Brothers and Big Sisters has such a great structure. I think it would be great for us to partner with them,” he said, adding that he has had difficulty deciding how the camp will select which kids can sign up.

“It’s a grey area. We don’t want to justify kids who can’t come by their income levels or where they live in the city. We want kids to come who don’t have the opportunity” to get out on the lake.

He has already been working with several organizations throughout the province that have offered to help run the camps.

Martin Motorsports is interested in providing boats for the camps while Water Ski and Wakeboard Saskatchewan will likely provide insurance for the camps.

Dobni even said that one of his friends offered to pay for the gas the boats will require.

“It’s been unbelievable, the support and the hype that’s been generated in the last few weeks,” he said, stressing that had he not jumped at the opportunity to pitch his business Nov. 14, WakeUp likely wouldn’t be seeing the same high level of support it currently has.

“Winning the pitch was huge. That was just our lucky break. I would have been a complete idiot to pass that up.”

Photo: Kevin Menz/The Sheaf

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