SMARTstart Entrepreneurs: Where are they now

Story by Josie Randall

Winter 2023/24

Melanie Beingessner | Blessingways Family Wellness

Melanie Beingessner was part of the very first cohort of the SMARTstart program.

Her business was getting ready to expand, and needed a business plan to help grow.

“In chiropractor college they teach you what to do for your trade or profession, but they don’t teach you how to run a business,” says Beingessner.

“It was really nice to have a mentor to talk to, someone who knew more about business than I did. There was support in writing business plans and I ended up buying the building we are still in today during my time in the SMARTstart program.”

Beingesser has also been a mentor of the SMARTstart program for five years. She hopes her experience can help other entrepreneurs grow.

“As mentors, we have already made all the mistakes there are to be made. So for me it is about helping my entrepreneurs take a step back and see the big picture and give them different ways to grow and be successful that are a little bit easier.”


Melody McClain | MJ McClain Professional Accountant

Melody McClain entered the SMARTstart program back in 2015.

She had been working as an accountant for more than 10 years, but wanted advice on taking over a firm to finally work for herself.

“I know how to manage numbers and the accounting side of my business, but all the rest of it was intimidating,” says McClain.

“The SMARTstart program was a great place to meet other businesses and network with others going through the same things I was. I took a lot away from it.”

Since graduating from the program, McClain says her firm has grown significantly. She still keeps in contact with others who took the program with her.

McClain now gives back to the program as a workshop presenter. Her advice to budding volunteers is to always ask questions.

“SMARTstart gives you the opportunity to meet people that have experience in areas that you might not. It’s the perfect place for someone with an idea, and needing some help to make it a reality.”


Jennine Kelly | Jennine Kelly HR Consulting

Jennine Kelly is a recent graduate from the SMARTstart program.

She has been in the human resources industry for more than 15 years, and decided to start her own counselling firm after she was let go from her job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had always thought about starting my own business, but making that jump made me nervous,” says Kelly.

“Anything to do with HR I am a professional at, but running my own business is totally different. I felt SMARTstart could be a really good way to make business connections, and having a business mentor who I could go to and ask questions and get advice specific to my business sounded great.”

Kelly went into the program with an idea of the future of her business and walked out with a 29-page plan for the next five years. She says the mentorship she got from the program was so worthwhile.

“I hope to be able to give back to the program someday. But for now, I am focused on building my business and I feel I actually have the tools to do it.”