By Gord Woodward
WHEN A NEW YEAR rolls around, most
people resolve to get into shape, eat healthier
and change a host of habits. Costco member
Nicole Smith started a business.
The dawning of 2014 marks the first
anniversary of her global travel photography
firm, Flytographer. As with most start-ups,
she’s seen her share of turbulence. And, like
thousands of other entrepreneurs across the
country, Smith—who lives in Victoria,
British Columbia—has found a co-pilot on
her business journey: Startup Canada (www.
“You feel alone a lot as an entrepreneur,”
Smith tells The Connection. But thanks to the
non-profit organization, she’s connected with
hundreds of like-minded business owners
around the country since last fall. “I’m already
starting to see some benefits,” she says.
Startup Canada—run by entrepreneurs,
Smith drew on the organization’s elec-
tronic forums and tweetups for advice on
everything from marketing to operations.
The assistance was doubly valuable. First, she
learned from the experience of others who
had successfully gone before her. And, she
avoided tapping her new firm’s limited
finances to hire consultants. “You don’t have a
lot of money to shell out for those kinds of
things [when you open a business],” she notes.
That’s exactly the kind of practical support Victoria Lennox envisioned when she
founded Startup Canada in May 2012. But she
also saw a need for a philosophical approach.
The 29-year-old from Ottawa wants to unite
entrepreneurs and give them a national voice.
“It was time for this movement,” she says.
“In Canada, we’re great peacekeepers, we love
our hockey, we love our Tim Hortons, but we
don’t think enough about our entrepreneurs.”
Society needs to shift its cultural mindset,
she adds. Young Canadians should be encouraged to pursue business ownership as a career
path. They need entrepreneurial skills to
compete in today’s world. And cities need to
recruit and engage business owners who help
build and sustain healthy communities.
“Most of society [wouldn’t] exist if it
wasn’t for entrepreneurs driving that economic engine,” says Rivers Corbett, a long-time entrepreneur who co-founded the
five-store Relish Gourmet Burgers franchise
based in New Brunswick. The Costco member helped launch Startup Fredericton, one of
15 pilot Startup Canada Communities that
rolled out across the country last May, from
Langford, British Columbia, to Charlottetown,
Prince Edward Island.
The next wave of 30 communities, each
sharing best business practices among entrepreneurs within their regions, will be added
to the list in 2014. And while all communities
offer similar assistance, each typically offers
something different too.
Startup London, Ontario, for example,
holds monthly events and has run successful
Startup Weekends, in which participants
spend 54 hours pitching ideas and then acting
on them. Two businesses have been launched
so far as a direct result.
Running the events as the London com-
Learning from locals
munity manager while also running her stra-
tegic consulting firm keeps Kelly McGregor
hopping. But she says the energy of the entre-
preneurial community keeps her going
through the long hours: “A lot of these people
have become my friends.”
At Startup Charlottetown, aboriginal-
initiatives manager Rosie Digout helps the
First Nations and non-aboriginal business
communities work together. “PEI is such a
small province. The opportunities are lim-
ited,” she says. To broaden the community’s
reach, she links local entrepreneurs with their
counterparts from coast to coast.
Digout’s own social media business has
also benefited, she says: “I get to learn from
some of the best entrepreneurs and industry
leaders across the country.”
CONTINUED ON PAGE 18
Entrepreneurs share best practices
via national network