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the challenge contest

AquaMobile Inc. is one of the five semi-finalists in the Small Business Challenge Contest, sponsored by The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp. (Check out the other four here.) Diana Goodwin’s Toronto-based business offers teach-at-home swimming lessons. She wants it to be “North America’s largest at-home learn-to-swim school.”JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

Five semi-finalists have been chosen for this year's $100,000 Small Business Challenge contest, a national competition sponsored by The Globe and Mail and Telus Corp.

Here are the five:

  • AquaMobile Inc.: Offers swim lessons at customers' homes using an inventive Web platform.
  • BakerStone International: This company came up with a barbecue grill insert that cooks pizzas at high heat.
  • MyBabbo:  Online service allows funeral directors to easily distribute legacy photo books and video tributes to deceased loved ones.
  • PathCore Inc.: Their software helps pathologists detect cancer more efficiently and accurately.
  • WTFast: Optimizes online connections for video gamers.

These firms stood out among the more than 3,300 companies from across the country that entered the competition. The total number of entries this year was about three times more than last year's. To read profiles of the five companies, click here or on the links above.  To vote for your favourite, click here.

"There was a tremendous response to this year's competition, and the pool of entries was so interesting and diverse," says Suzanne Trusdale, who leads small business solutions at Telus. "I think that speaks to the strength of small businesses in Canada."

This year's finalists came out ahead because their stories demonstrated a great vision for their company, Ms. Trusdale says. These businesses were also able to explain clearly how a $100,000 investment would take their enterprise to the next level of growth.

"There's also evident sustainability there, a proven track record that provides a compelling case of why we should invest in their business," says Ms. Trusdale, who is part of the Challenge Contest's panel of judges, which also includes Katherine Scarrow, Steve Tustin and Sean Stanleigh from The Globe and Mail, David Fuller from Telus, Chris Griffiths of Fine Tune Consulting, and Ami Richter from Lug Canada Inc.

The five finalists are scheduled to make a pitch for the grand prize on June 25 in front of the judges.

The Challenge Contest turns five years old this year, and a number of extra prizes have been added to mark the milestone. On top of the $100,000 grand prize, the winner gets $10,000 to donate to a favourite charity. Each of the four finalists who do not win the grand prize will receive $10,000 cash and $2,000 worth of Telus services or devices.

The grand prize winner will be announced on Sept. 17, three Most Promising Startups on Sept. 23, and regional winners and 50 honourable mentions on Oct. 14.

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