A Decade of SMARTstart: Cultivating Airdrie’s Entrepreneurial Landscape

Story by Josie Randall

Winter 2023/24

The SMARTstart program is celebrating a decade of fostering local business growth in Airdrie.

Established by a group of dedicated volunteers and the Economic Development department with the City of Airdrie, SMARTstart was born with a mission to guide businesses through their crucial first five years — a  period notorious for challenges.

“The SMARTstart program provides entrepreneurial training, business planning, mentorship and a community to support new businesses as they launch their ventures,” says Jessica Williamson, Economic Development Officer with the City of Airdrie.

“About 1/3 of new businesses do not survive their first five years and it has been proven that entrepreneurial training can assist building more resilient businesses.”

More than 140 entrepreneurs have graduated from the program since it was created.

Entrepreneur Joan Traub was one of the volunteers who helped establish the SMARTstart program in Airdrie.

Over the past decade, she has witnessed the program’s positive impact on various industries including fitness, childhood education, travel, medicine and wellness.

“I am always amazed at the ingenuity of local entrepreneurs and SMARTstart offers such an incredible learning opportunity for business owners and those with entrepreneurial ideas. I often recommend the program to entrepreneurs in Airdrie and those who want to explore the world of small business ownership,” says Traub.

As the co-chair of the SMARTstart Expansion Committee, Traub envisions a promising future for the program.

“I am going into my 11th year with the program, and we have such amazing plans for the future. A big piece of my mission is expanding the program beyond Airdrie. We want to see it expand and grow a network of entrepreneurs not just in Airdrie, but throughout the program.”