Getting Smarter

Getting Smarter

SMARTstart is Airdrie’s entrepreneurial training program offering tools, training, mentorship and business planning.

The program, completed over an eight-month period, helps new and prospective businesses survive, and thrive, during the crucial first years. Now in its third year, the 2016 cohort includes 21 entrepreneurs representing 17 diverse and interesting businesses. In this issue we meet 8 of the new participants and their mentors.

Smart Start 2.0

Part two in our meet the Smart Start participants.

Twenty-one entrepreneurs representing 17 businesses are busy working their way through the 2016 SMARTstart program.

The program provides passionate, budding entrepreneurs with online business skills training, in-person workshops and mentorship. Connecting the entrepreneurs with a local mentor is one of the most important aspects of the program.

This year’s participants have already completed a draft of a business, feasibility or strategic plan. By the program end in October, that plan – along with pro forma financial statements – will be complete, providing the entrepreneurs with a solid foundation from which to launch or expand their business.

Learn more at smartstartbusiness.ca


SMARTstart, a non-profit program, is designed and delivered by the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce, Bow Valley College, City of Airdrie Economic Development and Community Futures Centre West.

Mentor: Gary Armstrong

Age: 57

Business: Empowered Employee Education

Years in business: 9

Growing up I wanted to be: Police officer

My first year in business: I discovered that sometimes it is best to hire an expert.
Best advice you ever got: It’s called ‘show business’ for a reason. The show is only half of it.

Proudest achievement: My family

What’s on your desk/laptop right now: An introduction to business course I am developing

I define success as: Casting my own shadow.

I am paired with: Michelle Carre (U Weight Loss)

Michelle Carre, Entreprenuer

Age: 34

Business name or business idea: U Weight Loss

Years in business: 1.5

Dream/goal for your business: I want to be the go-to place for health and wellness for our clients and all Airdrians.

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: I hope to gain new perspectives and new knowledge. I want to talk through ideas and have a method for testing them out to see if they are a fit.  I want to develop a plan for the future that aligns with who I am and what I’m good at.

My biggest obstacle: Knowing where I stand with my current agreements and where I have movement

Why I am an entrepreneur: I love business and leadership and being a business owner allows you to do both of those things. I love the fact that I get to be a Jack of all trades being involved in the various aspects of running a business, from strategic planning to branding and marketing to finances. As the business grows you can put people in position to do some of those jobs (probably better than you) while you focus on the things you do best.

I start each day with: Getting the kids off to school and usually a meditation.

Jennifer Benner, Mentor

Age: 38

Business: Benner Database Designs

Years in business: 7

Growing up I wanted to be: Writer

My first year in business: I really struggled with evaluating my time properly – both in management and in value.

Best advice you ever got: Know your numbers. A clear understanding of cash flow and resource requirements are your best indicators.

Proudest achievement: Chairing the 2016 Mayor’s Night of the Arts Event

What’s on your desk/laptop right now: Google Docs, Dropbox and OverDrive

I define success as: Being able to learn from my mistakes so that I am constantly improving.

I am paired with: Beckie Lower (BL Fitness Coaching)

Beckie Lower, Entreprenuer

Age: 36
Business name or business idea: BL Fitness Coaching
Years in business: 6 months
Dream/goal for your business: To become a full-time personal trainer and open a gym

 

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: Creating a dynamic business plan that allows me to build a strong business. I also want to build on the strengths I have to make me a strong entrepreneur.
My biggest obstacle: Business planning and accounting
Why I am an entrepreneur: I have a passion for success, I am able to create the dynamic future to nurture my commitment to helping others through fitness.
I start each day with: My positive affirmations and hugs from my children.

Christelle Hitimana Uwamahoro, Entreprenuer

Age: 40

Business name or business idea: Meal Made Easy

Years in business: 8 months

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: Marketing skills and business management: cash flow and human resources, decision-making and their impact on the business, sales and customer relationships

My biggest obstacle: Money is the obstacle that is stopping us from having a storefront.

Why I am an entrepreneur: I realized I have a flair for good opportunities. I’m able to start from a simple idea and make it bigger. I have the passion to talk with people about all topics and to select ideas that I can use in different ways. I believe that an entrepreneur never stops learning or considering themselves self-sufficient. An entrepreneur has to be open-minded because business is not a straight line, business is an adventure and you need to be flexible to be able to keep up and enjoy what you do.

I start each day with: A prayer to thank God for another day.

Brent Swain, Mentor

Age: 69

Business: Innovative Marketing Solutions

Years in business: 35

Growing up I wanted to be: Fighter pilot

My first year in business: I was hired by Imperial Oil, given an office and created my own job in the marketing department.

Best advice you ever got: Listen more, talk less, be straightforward

Proudest achievement: Developing and facilitating my own sales and management training course

What’s on your desk/laptop right now: Numerous programs used to aid companies in marketing

I define success as: Enjoying what you do.

I am paired with: Lorne Osborne (Provision Athletics)

Kari & Shannon

Kari Lines, Mentor

Age: 36
Business: Budget Blinds of Airdrie
Years in business: 8
Growing up I wanted to be: Airline pilot
My first year in business: I learned a lot.
Best advice you ever got: Don’t take things too personally, and keep negativity out of your life.
Proudest achievement:  In 2015 we were the No. 1 franchise in Canada out of more than 100 locations.
What’s on your desk/laptop right now: Lots of paperwork! And my calendar

I define success as: Running a responsible, profitable,and ethical business that is not dependent on me being there every day.
I am paired with: Shannon Marier (Koko FitClub)

Shannon Marier, Entreprenuer

Age: 39
Business name or business idea: Koko FitClub
Years in business: N/A
Dream/goal for your business: Five clubs in five years
What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: I hope to minimize first-time business owner mistakes by learning from the mistakes of my mentor. Gaining more knowledge about marketing and social media will help increase brand awareness. Support from Kari Lines of Budget Blinds with human resources will be invaluable help in hiring our new staff.
My biggest obstacle: A true entrepreneur is an innovator. When I come up against a perceived obstacle, I find a way.
Why I am an entrepreneur: I feel compelled to provide personal assistance to help others make good decisions. Being an entrepreneur enables me to have the independence and freedom to continually grow and challenge myself. Through sharing my vision, I inspire the lives of others.
I start each day with: Gratitude.

Danielle Coulter, Mentor

Age: 57

Business: Tutor Doctor

Years in business: 6

Growing up I wanted to: Work in a lab or on a construction site

My first year in business: I nearly paid off my business loan, but worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week as a Jack of all trades

Best advice you ever got: Reach out and ask for help. No need to reinvent the wheel! Most folks love to share their tools and ideas.

Proudest achievement: Winning our company’s sales award (President Circle) three years in a row.

What’s on your desk/laptop right now: Lots of photos and travel itineraries
I define success as: Being able to go on a holiday again!

I am paired with: Karine Ruiz and Christelle Hitimana Uwamahoro (Meals Made Easy)

Karine Ruiz, Entreprenuer

Age: 40

Business name or business idea: Meals Made Easy

Years in business: 8 months

Dream/goal for your business: A storefront!

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: What we need to get a loan for a storefront, marketing/branding, organize/budget financials, when to go to wholesalers and who to contact, making our website user-friendly.

My biggest obstacle: Money

Why I am an entrepreneur: I love to be my own boss, love dealing with people, love being creative and thinking outside the box. Motivated by challenges and not scared to take risks. Also, I want to provide a service that will impact people’s lives in a positive way. The satisfaction of knowing that you can make an idea a business and make it succeed is exciting and scary all at the same time!

I start each day with: Checking my messages, shower and inspirational music, prayers.

Entrepreneur: Kaidy Morgan (on right)

Age: 29

Business name or business idea: Social Supper Ltd.

Years in Business: N/A

Dream/goal for my business: To add value to my community, to develop true farm-to-fork offerings and to be profitable and prosperous.

Which would I rather: Celebrity Apprentice or Dragons’ Den? Celebrity Apprentice

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: To develop strategies that may help me better my business within the community, be it marketing, supplier or industry-specific. As this is my first restaurant retail venture, I feel that participating in the SMARTstart program will help me build and strengthen relationships with those in related fields, and I hope to gain a better understanding of what resources are available within Airdrie specifically.

My biggest obstacle: Lacking experience launching a restaurant

Why I am an entrepreneur: Because I can think things through, evaluate, research and execute plans as a leader. I am opportunistic and understand firsthand the payoff of hard work. I believe in understanding a business at each level and its impact on others to bring confidence into decision-making. I am a calculated risk-taker, am adaptable, welcome feedback and act on criticism. I am meant to forge my own path and be my own boss.

I start each day with: A few cups of coffee, a check of my email and a lot of Dora the Explorer.

Mentor: Jacqui Jepson (on left)

Age: 38

Business: The Pink Wand Cleaning Services

Years in business: 8

Growing up I wanted to be:

My first year in business: I would do anything I could to generate and maintain business. I worked long hours and did not give up.

Best advice I ever got: Plan your work and work your plan (my dad). Read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen (my mom).

Proudest achievement: 2014 Winning Edge Award and teaching my children about being an entrepreneur.

What’s on my desk/laptop right now: Photos of my children

I define success as: never giving up, no matter what.

 

Entrepreneur: Peter Schill  (on right)

Age: 61

Business name or business idea: Alberta Craft Malting Ltd.

Years in business: N/A

Dream/goal for my business: Proven production and success within three years

Which would I rather: Celebrity Apprentice or Dragons’ Den? Dragons’ Den

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: Refinement of my business plan strategies for attracting investors, a reality check to prove the feasibility of success.

My biggest obstacle: Money and time

Why I am an entrepreneur: I have always enjoyed my working life when I was in charge.

I start each day with: A plan for the day

Mentor: Sid Van der Meer (on left)

Age: 59

Business: Retired (Northwest Equipment Ltd.)

Years in business: 30

Growing up I wanted to be: Pilot

My first year in business: I learned that I had a lot to learn.

Best advice I ever got: Spend 10 per cent of every day on what you want to do in three years.

Proudest achievement: Developing Northwest Equipment into the vision I had, selling it and achieving our retirement goal.

What’s on my desk/laptop right now:  Slide show of beautiful places in the world

I define success as: Achieving one’s goals and ambitions, big or small.

 

Getting Smarter
Entrepreneur: Annie Kelly (on left)

Age: 39

Business name or business idea: The Alberta Dames (also owner of Cougar Chic Decor)

Years in Business: 3

Dream/goal for my business: To be a well-known, successful company with our vintage markets and supplying amazing DIY product to our customers.

Which would I rather: Celebrity Apprentice or Dragons’ Den? Dragons’ Den

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: How to work smarter and learn more of the business smarts part of running my business successfully, i.e. marketing.

My biggest obstacle: Marketing and needing a clone of myself!

Why I am an entrepreneur: I love being my own boss. I get back what I put into my business; I work and will work my butt off to be successful.

I start each day with: Getting my kids off to school and then [going] out to my studio.

 

Entrepreneur:  Jennifer Pyykonen (on right)

Age: 40

Business name or business idea: The Alberta Dames (also owner of Ava Blake Creations)

Years in Business: 3

Dream/goal for my business: I would love to have our modern vintage markets well known across Canada and maybe travel to host them. I would also like our Alberta Dames Stencil Line to grow bigger.

Which would I rather: Celebrity Apprentice or Dragons’ Den? Dragons’ Den

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: I hope to learn how to get focused in the right areas to gain business sales.

My biggest obstacle: Not liking the serious and numbers part of business

Why I am an entrepreneur: I absolutely love every single minute of what I do and each day that my business grows I gain confidence and empowerment.

I start each day with: Coffee or Red Bull.

Mentor: Sandi Christensen (in middle)

Age: 54

Business: Goodmen Roofing Ltd.

Years in business: 17

Growing up I wanted to be: Flight attendant

My first year in business: I worked from a home office, which allowed me time to spend with my two-year-old daughter.

Best advice I ever got: You can’t do everything – hire the people to do the things that you don’t do well.

Proudest achievement: I’ve been married to the same wonderful man for 25 years. Our daughter is in her first year of business at SAIT.

What’s on my desk/laptop right now: Photos of my family

I define success as: Finding your niche in your industry while continuing to grow and develop and have fun doing it!

 

Getting Smarter
Entrepreneur: Kim Straker (on left)

Age: 58

Business name or business idea: Atlasware Inc.

Years in business: in my first year

Dream/goal for my business: To be available in retail outlets across Canada in five years

Which would I rather: Celebrity Apprentice or Dragons’ Den? Dragons’ Den

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: How to successfully promote and market Atlasware vacuum bottles, how to set up an effective distribution network, how to strategically plan the growth of my company and since this is my first incorporated business, I want to have a clear understanding of what is required to be in compliance with government regulations and guidelines governing incorporated businesses.

My biggest obstacle: The length of time it has taken to get my business from the idea stage to the up-and-running stage

Why I am an entrepreneur: I have always been intrigued with the idea of owning a business. I am motivated by the responsibility of building a business from the ground up and seeing it succeed. Being my own boss and planning and setting a course for my business is exciting. I have the ambition to see an idea through and am excited about doing something totally different from the career I worked in for so many years.

I start each day with: Breakfast, emails and I plan out my day.

 Mentor: Lynn Kehoe (on right)

Age: 45

Business: Cream Body & Bath

Years in business: 10

Growing up I wanted to be: Travel agent/flight attendant

My first year in business: I felt very overwhelmed!

Best advice I ever got: Volunteer/engage in the community

Proudest achievement:  Home – my family; work – 10 years in business

What’s on my desk/laptop right now: Either email or QuickBooks. I am not much of a computer person unless it is for work.

I define success as: I’ve done my best each day.

 

Entrepreneur: Sasha Aman

Age: 38

Business name or business idea: Legacy Endurance Inc.

Years in Business: 1

Dream/goal for my business: To have a retail/training location in Airdrie and scale the scope of products/services we provide.

Which would I rather: Celebrity Apprentice or Dragons’ Den? Dragons’ Den

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: Business plan creation; fundamental business management skills and the opportunity to work with a mentor.

My biggest obstacle: Time

Why I am an entrepreneur: I want to be able to own my own business and be living my life the way I want to. To do something that I thoroughly enjoy and that impacts others’ lives in a positive way. I also want to leave a legacy for my children and be an example to what hard work and determination can achieve.

I start each day with: My three children and get them up and ready for school.

Entrepreneur: Ian Aman

Age: 40

Business name or business idea: Legacy Endurance Inc.

Years in business: 1

Dream/goal for my business: To have a retail/training location in Airdrie and scale the scope of products/services we provide.

Which would I rather: Celebrity Apprentice or Dragons’ Den? Dragons’ Den

What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: Business plan creation. Fundamental business management skills and the opportunity to work with a mentor.

My biggest obstacle: Time

Why I am an entrepreneur: I believe I work hard to make my own dreams come to life, not someone else’s. I prefer to live on my own terms and want the freedom to decide how and where I get my best work done.

I start each day with: A 5:30 a.m. run and a hot cup of coffee

Mentor: Lorelei Talbot

Age: 43

Business: Astoria Asset Management Ltd.

Years in business: 11

Growing up I wanted to be: Lawyer, truck driver, accountant

My first year in business: I started in my home and moved to my first office in seven months.

Best advice I ever got: If you can do it today don’t wait until tomorrow.

Proudest achievement: Running a half marathon

What’s on my desk/laptop right now: Email, banking program, accounting program, payroll

I define success as: Continued growth

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