Meet Elevate Ultimate, Best Youth Entrepreneur 2020

January 12th, 2021 in Finalist Profiles

Turn your passion into a career – it’s the blueprint so many successful entrepreneurs have followed, and it’s one Danie Proby and Ari Nitikman turned into Elevate Ultimate, a coaching and camp program for young people across the Lower Mainland.

Elevate Ultimate’s goal is to grow Ultimate Frisbee, a sport they both played and loved, while teaching kids invaluable lessons about teamwork and fitness. Right now, Elevate puts frisbees in the hands of over 10,000 youth per year through in-school and after-school programs, with a goal of expanding across the Lower Mainland and eventually Canada.

After clinching the inaugural Best Youth Entrepreneur Award at the 2020 Small Business BC Awards, we caught up with Danie and Ari to hear about their awards journey.

Describe what you do at Elevate Ultimate, and why you do it?

We both owe a lot to sports. It taught us so much growing up. Continuing that involvement in athletics and giving kids an opportunity to find community and positivity is something that’s really important to both of us.

Ultimate Frisbee is just such a great sport and it’s an invaluable way for kids to learn how to be part of a team, work together to achieve a common goal and address values that are so important for kids to learn. Selfishly, we also love playing Ultimate, we love being around the energy of the kids. Making a job out of that is just so rewarding for us.

What was your SBBC Awards journey like?

We first found out about the SBBC Awards when a company we previously worked with posted it on their Facebook and were asking people to vote for them. We saw it and thought we should get involved. Turns out we applied two days before nominations closed.

We had no idea who we were up against, and we picked Best Youth Entrepreneur honestly because we thought we’d have the best chance of winning it. We have a pretty small community but we shared it around, asked people to vote for us, and it took on a life of its own. People were sharing it so much we found out we even had people in Israel voting for us.

We managed to get enough votes to make the Top 10 and began putting our application together for the Top 5. No joke, we spent the next couple of weeks practicing our pitch before we had to present to the judges and it was a pretty fun process. It was the first time we’d ever pitched our business like that in front of judges.

It all started with winning the award. It legitimized what we do in a lot of different ways and made other people take notice of our work. We’ll always be the first ever winner of the award and that’s such an awesome recognition of our business.

Are competitions like the SBBC Awards worthwhile to enter?

Yes, definitely.

Sure, it’s a little time consuming at the start. You’ll likely have to spend an hour or two putting your application together but in the grand scheme of things it’s absolutely worth it. It was unfortunate timing for us, because we suddenly had all this momentum from winning the award but COVID hit and we had to cancel all our spring programs. But our summer programs did so well when we got up and running again and part of the reason for that was winning the award.

What impacts has COVID-19 had on your business?

When the pandemic was declared, we immediately had to cancel our spring break camps. In fact, we were halfway through them. We just assumed right away that nothing in spring will happen. That was pretty hard for us to accept because spring is our busiest season and we were riding high.

We asked ourselves – what can we do to position ourselves for a great summer? We added a new sport to our business, Disc Golf. We were able to offer both Ultimate Frisbee and Disc Golf in the summer and both sold out. Now, it’s just another part of our business we didn’t have pre-COVID but we’re going to continue offering it.

During summer, we reduced numbers at our camps to keep everyone safe and it was a huge success. We ran the camps from Monday to Friday with campers learning a new skill every day. We teach them the etiquette, they learn throws and hopefully come away with a new skill at the end!

If someone was considering participating in the awards this year, what advice would you offer?

There are so many benefits beyond winning the SBBC Awards. We met some really cool entrepreneurs and I think the introspective process of writing your application, thinking about your pitch, gathering votes – it’s all really valuable for your business. I know for us, it made us sit down and think about what our value proposition is, who is our audience etc. and all of those questions are so valuable. Regardless of if you win, you’ll come away knowing so much more about your business.