After years of pandemic uncertainty, entrepreneurs once again began thinking about launching or growing their businesses in 2023, and Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development (PKED) was behind them all the way.
Over the past year, 35 Peterborough-area entrepreneurs who graduated from either the “Spark” Mentorships and Grants Program or the Starter Company Plus program — two of the small business programs offered through PKED — have launched or grown their businesses.
From food and beverage and health and wellness to art and tourism and beyond, participating entrepreneurs were able to launch an idea for a new business or take an established business to the next level.
“For many entrepreneurs, 2023 was the year to reinvent themselves,” says Madeleine Hurrell, Manager of Peterborough & the Kawarthas Business Advisory Centre. “Some entrepreneurs had a professional career, saw a gap in an industry, and used their skillset to create their own business.”
In reinventing themselves, entrepreneurs are developing products and services available to communities within the region while also creating jobs and growing the local economy.
According to the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), there are more than 1.2 million businesses in Canada. Of these, 437,891 are small businesses in Ontario. As for workforce and creating jobs, nine in 10 Canadians in the private sector work in a small to medium-sized business.
“Small business is big business in Canada,” says Hurrell. “Especially in a region like ours.”
Graduates of the “Spark” Mentorships and Grants Program (2022 and 2023)
That includes entrepreneurs with innovative tourism ideas who participated in the “Spark” Mentorships and Grants Program, an initiative offered collaboratively by the Tourism Innovation Lab and Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism (a division of PKED).
In 2023, the program saw five individuals pitch their tourism ideas to a panel of judges comprised of local partner representatives and tourism innovators from outside the region. Three finalists were awarded a $3,000 seed grant with mentorship from an established tourism operator or industry expert to help turn their spark of an idea into a flame.
“What sets these entrepreneurs apart is their winning ideas are just that — an idea,” says Jaimie Eastabrook, Tourism Development Officer with Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism. “The ‘Spark’ program stands out among other tourism initiatives because it is not only open to established tourism operators but anyone with a spark of creativity and innovation in tourism.”
In addition to this year’s winning entrepreneurs, the six entrepreneurs from the program’s inaugural year in 2022 launched their new tourism ideas in 2023.
Eastabrook says all the program’s recipients in 2022 and 2023 have “unleashed an array of tourism ideas” from hands-on culinary experiences and an outdoor escape adventure to a unique special events venue, a glamping accommodation, and camping equipment rentals.
“The ‘Spark’ program’s criteria is strategically focused on winter and shoulder season development to extend the tourism season,” Eastabrook points out. “Fostering the creation of unique experiences that captivate visitors, encourages them to spend more money, stay longer and return to this beautiful region in a variety of seasons, ultimately contributes to a thriving local economy year-round.”
Graduates of Starter Company Plus (2023 spring intake)
Also contributing to a thriving local economy were the 23 Peterborough-area businesses that participated in this year’s spring and fall intakes of Starter Company Plus, a business training program offered by the Business Advisory Centre with funding from the Ontario government.
Owners of emerging and established small businesses received in-class training and assistance in crafting a business plan along with one-on-one consultation, with 15 of the participating entrepreneurs awarded a $5,000 microgrant based on the strength of their business plan.
Both the Starter Company Plus program participants and “Spark” program grant recipients received a conditional pre-approved microloan from Community Futures Peterborough. Starter Company Plus participants also received access to a six-month trial membership with Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chamber of Commerce.
“It was highly subscribed and a very competitive process,” says Hurrell, noting that it was encouraging to see applications from those who had been recommended from program alumni. “That power of word of mouth from another business owner, sharing what they received from the program and how it can help someone they know, is tremendous. It’s nice to see local entrepreneurs supporting each other.”
Starter Company Plus microgrant recipients wasted no time in putting the funding and their newly acquired business knowledge to use. For example, just a few months after participating in the spring intake, Take Cover Books owners Andrew and Sean Fitzpatrick transformed their successful online bookstore into a brick-and-mortar business in Peterborough’s East City.
“They had identified an independent bookstore as being a gap here in our community,” says Hurrell, adding that it serves as a space for the whole community. “They are giving back by creating a space for local and travelling authors and the community to come and connect.”
Graduates of Starter Company Plus (2023 fall intake)
Participants in the fall intake of Starter Company Plus — the tenth intake of the program — achieved similar success in business growth. For example, in the weeks since graduating and receiving a $5,000 microgrant, Meg Kynock’s healthy dog treat business muttmixx has become a finalist for the Canadian Choice Award, which recognizes small businesses across the country, and also received the Havelock-Belmont-Methuen Business of the Year Award.
“We have certainly seen exceptional growth throughout the year,” says Hurrell. “One of the major advantages of the program is connecting entrepreneurs with valuable business training, which helps them really look ahead to future opportunities for investment.”
The fall intake of Starter Company Plus was especially significant as it marked the return to in-person programming after eight intakes were held virtually during the pandemic. The change proved worthwhile for the participants who were able to create more long-term connection with one another.
“The relationships that were formed over just a short period were really fantastic,” says Hurrell. “This program is something the group does together. They all learned at the same time, so they have their own alumni network within the business community, and that’s something that’s unique to these programs.”
To celebrate the entrepreneurs who participated in the “Spark” Mentorships and Grants Program and Starter Company Plus, PKED will be hosting a showcase event on February 8, 2024. The entrepreneurs will be there to introduce themselves to the community, explain their businesses, and show off their accomplishments and successes.
“We like the business owners to invite their supporters, because it really takes a village,” says Hurrell. “It’s a night to also celebrate their friends, families, clients, and suppliers — the entire community that supports local small business.”
Location and more details on the showcase event will be announced soon, in addition to details on when applications will open for the 2024 “Spark” Mentorships and Grants program.
For more information about how Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development’s Business Advisory Centre helps small businesses, and for updates on the showcase and available programs, visit investptbo.ca/business-advisory-centre and follow on Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), and LinkedIn.
The Class of 2023
2023 Spark Mentorship and Grant Program
Katie Jackson – Wanderlight Alpaca
Connor McIlveen and Glyne Pease – Shamrock Acres
Scott Williams – Wildflower Bakery
Sarah Heydon – The Pearly Acre (2022 program graduate)
Polina Ratnichkina – Camp Rentique (2022 program graduate)
Robyn Ivory Pierson – Indigenously Infused (2022 program graduate)
Jeremy Poulin – Red Mill Maple Syrup (2022 program graduate)
Kassy Scott – Rare Escape (2022 program graduate)
2023 Starter Company Plus (spring intake)
Kate Adams – Kate L. Toms Fit
Erin Burrell – EB Aquatics
Laura Dempsey – Gaia’s Greens Family Farm
Brigh Findlay-Shields – Brisa Social
Sean and Andrew (pictured) Fitzpatrick – Take Cover Books
Jack Henry – OmniWorx Design
David Hope – Greener Homes Guide
Kendra Mancini – Working Human Inc.
Bethany Puttkemery – Smells Like Flowers
Jordan Rusk – Nights In
Tavlyn Evans and Crystal Walker – Sage Beauty
Patricia Wilson – Diverse Nature Collective
2023 Starter Company Plus (fall intake)
Maeghan Ireland-Danielis – Belmont Spiritual Health and Wellness Centre
Mackenzie Caldwell – Grace&Glow Beauty Studio
Joe and Liz Crowley – Crowley Acres
Katie Jackson – Wanderlight Luxury Farm Stay
Shane Keil – Tech Medicine
Meaghan Kynock – muttmixx
Cody Lewis – Cody Lewis Carpentry
Jordan Lyall – Jordan Lyall Photography
Sara Scheuermann – Steaped Slow Ceramic
Iola Taylor – Cold Duck Creamery
Gabby Wohler and Bryerson White – Pizazz+ PTBO
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