The Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre has graduated its fifth cohort from the Costarter Business Accelerator Program.
The five companies received an $18,000 investment to fuel their growth and were given personalized one-on-one mentorship support while also receiving insight from seasoned business owners.
Jeff Coull, the centre's executive director, stated Wednesday that finding the best mentors is one key challenge for the program.
“Certainly, with all of our organizations that are participating they need have a mentor, but it's not just good enough to have somebody there,” Coull noted.
“We want somebody that has industry experience. Somebody that has been an entrepreneur in that space [and] someone that can open doors to [entrepreneurs] as they start to [build up]. The number one thing is just having the best mentor we possibly can for each one of our organizations.”
The program accepted its first cohort in 2016 and this year marks the first cohort following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The graduating companies are Katchya Pet Toys, Silver Vantage Software, Skillsun, Waves and Frequencies (WAF), and Woblu based in Kenora.
David Shaw and his American partner are behind the idea to develop high-quality speakers through the lens of interior design.
“I feel like there is a transformative effect of listening to high-quality sounds with other people, and as designers sharing an interest in making beautiful objects,” Shaw said when asked about the moment he wanted to pursue the idea further.
“We thought that there was a niche to combine those two things, and to build up quality of life to bring beautiful design to the world and to really put our foot in what we think is a really growing market.”
Shaw added that the 12 weeks was foundational for his business as he built a business plan, did research on his target market and even learned about all of the other facets of starting a business, including from a legal standpoint.
Coull echoed those thoughts, adding that the intense periods open business leaders’ eyes to all of the questions you never thought you would have to ask.
“How you incorporate your business? What are the clauses? What are the terms? What are the arrangements for getting future investment and what are the different types of investment to simpler things like, how do I use an accounting program? What kind of information do I need to record so that I can complete my taxes at the end of the year?
"Some of these [questions] might seem very basic, but to someone that has a great idea or product that [wants] to bring [it] to market that has never done it before, they just don't have the experience. That's where a program like this really comes into play,” Coull said.