Dawson Norrish had just wrapped up an important internship with a company in Calgary when inspiration struck. Working on finishing his degree in finance, he was looking to impress his supervisors, and was putting in long hours at the office. Having access to a fridge in the workplace allowed him to stay at his desk even longer. But when he returned to his classes at USask, he realized that while many students similarly spend long hours on campus, they don’t always have a safe way to keep their own food fresh on campus.
“It struck me that every workplace around the world has a fridge, except for the university,” said Norrish. “When students are studying at school, they have to pack and haul their lunch with them while on campus all day, and when you don’t have access to refrigeration you have to change some of your eating habits, and they may not be quite as healthy.”
That’s when he began to develop the ArcticShelf, a multi-unit, locker-style fridge that allows users to store meals at work or on campus without fear of others taking or touching their food. Using a mobile app, customers will be able to find, rent, and open their own fridge—an idea that has already garnered accolades and awards.
For his efforts as a student entrepreneur, Norrish’s proposal was one of the top five to take home the InVenture Business Plan Competition prize from Edwards School of Business in March, 2020. In addition, after making it to the finale pitch of the Spring 2020 Co.Launch, he also secured a $5,000 prize to help make his ideas a reality.
Finding a manufacturer to help bring his idea forward, Norrish set up the fridge on campus in February, 2020 with immediate success, as more than 200 students signed on to the idea within eight hours.
“Students were clearly excited about this. They could see it and touch it. And it was very exciting for me,” Norrish recalled.
Despite the realities of the pandemic settling in on campus the next month, Norrish was undeterred: His idea would still have a unique place in the business world.
“Every single workplace has a fridge but these are all meant for residential use with a family of four, not for forty coworkers,” said Norrish, who added that many of these shared spaces are often cluttered and messy.
Despite many people currently working from home due to the pandemic, Norrish anticipates that the ArcticShelf will open up creative and safer ways to connect customers to their food.
“One of the ways we can do this is to provide a distribution channel to catering and local businesses that deliver food,” said Norrish. “They could use our infrastructure as a destination point for this delivery.”
While he looks forward to bringing ArcticShelf to the next phase, Norrish is quick to credit those at USask who helped give the company its start.
“I’m very thankful for all those people on campus who were open to entrepreneurship and giving me the chance to test this idea,” said Norrish. “We had many conversations and people involved, and they were very willing to help bring my idea to life.”
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