We’re checking in with past VenturePrize winners to see how their companies have changed since winning top spots in the Student, Fast Growth, DynaLIFE DX Health and TELUS ICT streams. This week, we spoke to Peter Schill of Alberta Craft Malting, Grand Prize winner of the 2015 Alberta Innovates Student stream.

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Alberta Craft Malting was the brainchild of Peter Schill and Tyler Rose, two Olds College students in the Brewmaster Program who were brought together by their affinity for the malting process.

The two noticed that although Alberta has a growing craft beer industry, the majority of specialty malts used (the ingredient that gives beer its colour and flavour) are produced either overseas or the United States. A new business idea was born, and the two set out to find a market for Alberta-made specialty malts.

Alberta Craft Malting’s journey to VenturePrize began at the RED Challenge in Red Deer, a business competition where students and young adults in the region present innovative ideas to win funding in order to move forward with their idea.

Winning the RED Challenge earned Peter and Tyler entry to VenturePrize, along with seed funding to bolster their education and resources. Tyler took the reins by revising the business proposal and presentation for the prize, and Alberta Craft Malting again took first place in the Alberta Innovates Student Stream.

Winning two business competitions in a row is quite the feat for a brand new company: “We thought we had identified an under-served market,” says Peter. “We always had a great response from whomever we gave the pitch to.” Alberta’s numerous craft breweries and general enthusiasm for craft beer certainly helped make malting a hot topic and business idea.

Since VenturePrize, Alberta Craft Malting has gone through somewhat of a metamorphosis as Tyler has since moved on to focus on brewing. Since malting comes with a large barrier to entry (as capital costs for the equipment are high), Peter is working in partnership with a maltery in Southern Alberta. Currently, they are performing test runs while looking at expanding the existing plant into a full-scale malting plant in conjunction with the brewery.

Peter recalls that the most valuable part of the VenturePrize process was the preparation and presentation of the pitches: “it clarifies what is important and the steps to get there” Peter explains. “You can’t go into a presentation based on ‘what if.’”

Peter continues to move ahead with Alberta Craft Malting, and is developing a capital program in order to begin construction and expansion of the Southern Alberta maltery.

His advice for this year’s VenturePrize participants is simply to believe in your idea: “Once you have belief in your specific idea, the ‘how’ will come later. You need the ‘why’ first.”

There’s still time to be a part of this year’s VenturePrize competition! Register before the end of January to take advantage of the 2017 Seminar Series included in the registration fee. Learn more and register here.