Meet the Canada Starts Grant Recipients

In September 2020, Ownr by RBC Ventures, in partnership with StaplesShopify, and Moneris, launched Canada Starts, a $200,000 fund to help aspiring Canadian entrepreneurs get up and running.

Our team was humbled by the overwhelming response to this initiative, as we received over 1,000+ high-quality applications. We’re proud to be able to empower and support entrepreneurs to take the first step towards launching their dream business.

Applications for Canada Starts have closed, but we are continuing to provide tools and resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow their business. Learn more here.

Check out the list below for spotlight features on our Canada Starts Grant Recipients.

(List will continue to be updated)

Half Step Sound

Richard McNeil

Half Step Sound will provide customers with high fidelity digital audio recordings and post production services for use in TV and film as well as corporate and private applications. It is owned and operated by Richard McNeil an experienced audio engineer, location sound technician, music producer and composer.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I have been working in audio for the last eight years. It all started when my band needed to start producing recordings and we could not afford to hire someone out of house. I quickly fell in love with the process of capturing moments forever and spending long hours in the studio getting everything to sound just right. As time went on I got hired to work on a feature film in the sound department. Recently I spent the summer and fall of 2020 in the sound department of “The Curse of Oak Island” and was inspired by my boss Dan Stewart, who was the Audio Coordinator for the show, to get the gear and start my own business doing location sound and post production. With the help of Canada Starts this dream has materialized much faster than I ever could have hoped.

Give us some background on your business.

Half Step Sound is an all in one solution for content creators who need high quality audio for their productions. Using industry standard hardware and software H.S.S. is capable of recording on locations in a wide range of situations with seamless timecode sync to video. H.S.S. can also take care of post processing such as noise removal, over dubs and scores.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The biggest inspirations for H.S.S. are Dan Stewart of “Red Maple Films”, Ian Thompson and Cory Sewell who have mentored me through the early stages of learning about this industry and what it takes to be competitive in it. They have been integral in learning about the equipment, politics and general ins and outs of the business. They have shown me that you can be your own boss in this field and love your job!

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

I am using the grant money to purchase a Sound Devices 633 field recorder, and a Neumann kmr 81 microphone that will be the backbone of the business. These are heavy duty pieces of gear that will provide industry standard sounding recordings. H.S.S. will also use some of the grant money for web / graphic design and social media content creation.

Where can we learn more about your business?

H.S.S. is currently working on web presence so stay tuned for website and social media launch!

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

The short term goal for H.S.S. is to land some short films and documentaries being shot over the winter of 2021 to add to the roster of completed successful projects.

Crisper

Kieran Alkerton

Crisper is Canada’s first and only zero waste and plant-based meal kit service, delivering fresh ingredients and tasty recipes in reusable and returnable packaging. Our guiding principle is conscious convenience: ready-to-cook meals delivered to your door without the cost to the environment. Crisper kits are packed in high quality reusable containers that we retrieve from your doorstep.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

In early 2020, I left my job at an environmental non-profit with a goal of becoming self-employed. I didn’t yet know exactly what I would do, except that I wanted to contribute to positive change for the environment and the planet. When the COVID-19 pandemic started and I was without work, I changed course and started volunteering as a cook in a food bank. It was there that I turned my attention towards the food industry and started thinking about whether I could start something that would have a positive impact on our food supply chain. I had always been attracted to meal kit services for their innovation and convenience, but was shocked at how much waste they generated through single-use packaging. I decided to see if I could start a meal kit service that would provide the same convenience, without all the waste.

Give us some background on your business.

When you subscribe to Crisper, you’ll receive a kit of pre-portioned groceries with recipe cards every week. You choose the number of meals, and we provide the exact amount of food with step-by-step instructions. Our recipes are tasty, fast, and suited for any level of experience in the kitchen. The major meal kit companies offer few plant-based options and create mountains of plastic waste from single-use packaging. Crisper kits help you: – Save time spent meal planning and grocery shopping – Waste less food with perfectly portioned ingredients – Reduce plastic waste – Maintain a plant-based diet.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I’m inspired by the challenge to demonstrate that it’s possible to build a viable and profitable company without resorting to wasteful practices.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The Canada Starts grant will make an invaluable contribution to the launch of Crisper, and allow us to scale up quicker by hiring the talent we need and promoting our products through digital marketing.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Website – http://www.crisperkits.ca

Facebook – facebook.com/crisperkits

Instagram – @crisperkits

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’re incredibly grateful for the support provided by this grant, and we look forward to sharing our story as we launch and grow.

My Digital Waiter

Alex Wu, Co-Founder & CEO, Brian He, Co-Founder & Co-CTO, Arya Soukilo, Co-Founder & Co-CTO, Yuancun Liu, COO

My Digital Waiter provides a cloud-based SaaS solution that will help restaurants to reopen safely and quickly. Through our platform, dine-in customers can directly place orders using any web browser on their smartphones. Similarly, restaurant operators can access and manage the orders using any internet browsers on a Pad/Phone device of their choosing with no installation required.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

My co-founders and I worked in Silicon Valley and the tech industry in general for a while. When COVID-19 happened, we thought it is a good opportunity for us to combine our skill sets and do something that can help people through the crisis and give back to the community that we grew up in.

Give us some background on your business.

MyDigitalWaiter.com provides a cloud-based SaaS solution that will help Restaurants and reopen safely and quickly. Our platform allows dine-in customers to order directly through their own smartphone via web browsers, no application required. Tens of thousands of restaurants are at a rush to open across the country trying to balance safety and impending economic hardship. Insiders estimate that more than 50% of restaurants may have to declare bankruptcy if they keep their doors closed. With pent up demand, restaurants are a top hotbed of potential outbreak. MyDigitalWaiter takes a major risk factor out of the equation allowing dine-in customers to place orders directly from their own smartphone eliminating the need to interact with wait staff and touching shared menus or iPad-based ordering systems. MyDigitalWaiter have a product at the ready to deploy across the country, and integration and implementation can be done quickly to reduce risk of exposure and contact across the country immediately. Contactless dining is a standard in most major restaurants in large cities in China but has lagged in adoption within North America and Europe. The COVID crisis and the demand to re-imagine the new normal within the restaurant industry will provide tailwinds to contactless dining becoming the norm. Not only does it provide customers and staffs a peace of mind, but it also increasing table turnover and reduces labor costs for restaurants that are often stretched thin and already operating on razor-thin margins.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

As an all immigrant team, we are inspired by our parents and those who came to Canada with nothing but was able to build successful businesses and enterprises with grit and hard work.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The funding will be deployed to support both business registration and company operations. We are currently working with Fasken’s emerging business unit on corporate registration. While some of the costs will be waivered by them, we expect potential lawyer fees to range from hundreds to the low thousands. Aside from the lawyer fee, we expect to incur approximately $7,000 in marketing expenditures and research and development costs over the next quarter. We expect to incur $2,000 in marketing expenditure relating to marketing content production (marketing video, website design, graphic design, etc.), paid social media advertising, and printed media (posters, pamphlets, etc.). We expect a further $5,000 to be invested in product development expenses relating to third-party developers, Amazon Cloud, and cybersecurity evaluation. We hope the grant will help to cover part if not the entire aforementioned expenditures so we can avoid potential funding shortfalls and focus on building the business.

Where can we learn more about your business?

www.mydigitalwaiter.com

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We plan to offer a free version of our product to restaurants across the country to help them through this crisis.

LoveCards

Sanda Ajzerle

LoveCards sells mental-health themed greeting cards. Different than “get well soon” cards, LoveCards recognizes that sometimes we all need a little support for going through a mental health issue – that support is not just limited to physical illnesses. They’re intended as a gentle show of encouragement for anyone going through something – whether it’s a tough life event or ongoing mental health challenges – even when we don’t quite know what to say.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

My name is Sanda, and I’m a 26-year-old public servant, originally from Germany and Bosnia, but currently situated in Ottawa, Canada. A few years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety – two anxiety disorders at once actually. At the same time I was also diagnosed with “major depressive disorder”. I didn’t understand – I was an ambitious, busy, optimistic, intelligent individual. I didn’t even realize I had depression, let alone “major” depression. A few years later, I was also diagnosed with panic attack disorder – I was having panic attacks at least 3 times a day. Writing this out, it seems like I was a mess. But actually, somehow through it all, I was still living my life. No one knew anything about what I was struggling with. Before I was diagnosed (that is, when I was “mentally healthy” – or so I thought) I was always adamant about being open about mental illness. I didn’t want anyone around me to feel like they couldn’t talk about them. It makes sense that after my diagnoses, it was incredibly important for me to be open about my own struggles, even though it was (really) difficult. And the more I spoke about my illnesses to the people around me, the more they opened up to me about their own challenges. Friends who had been suffering from depression or panic attacks or OCD tendencies for years. And throughout all that, it became clear that sometimes hearing “it’ll get better soon” or “you’ll be fine” really doesn’t help. Sometimes it feels like your pain is being diminished, or like a countdown has started on how long you have until you should be “better”. But the reality is that sometimes you get better, then you get worse, then you get better again, and then you get worse again – and you go through that cycle a hundred times. Hence the birth of LoveCards. These cards were specifically created to allow you to show your support to others who might just need to know you’re there – without the pressure of getting better soon or feeling like sliding backwards is a “failure”. Sometimes people just need to know you’re there for them – no strings attached.

Give us some background on your business.

LoveCards will offer a variety of greeting cards specializing in messages relating to mental health. There will be lines relating to anxiety, depression, grief, ADHD, and more. LoveCards will also feature designs from small Canadian artists, in order to support their businesses as well as provide a community-based element to the cards. Overall, it will focus on both mental health and on community support. LoveCards messaging will focus on “non-toxic” positivity. The term “toxic positivity” refers to the” excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations”. The issues with toxic positivity is that it minimizes and invalidates the emotions that a person may be experiencing. The idea not that saying nice things is actually a negative thing to do, or that a positive mindset is a bad thing, but rather that feeling sad, depressed, anxious (etc), is a normal and totally ok thing to be experiencing. The idea is to get rid of the burden of being “ok”/”healed”/”fixed” so that the support you’re giving to that person makes them actually feel truly supported.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest inspiration as an aspiring entrepreneur would be to build a successful business which not only sustains me, but also sustains others in my community – whether that’s by hiring them into the business or engaging local entrepreneurs to contribute. Having a business which earns a ton of money is obviously great, but I want the impact to be much larger than that. With LoveCards, I hope to support local artists by hiring them to design the cards. Plus, there’s the overall mission of the company which is to increase awareness of mental health symptoms from a realistic point of view – that mental health challenges are not something that goes away after a week of sleep and ice cream, but that it can be a years’ long journey.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The grant will be used to start up a Shopify store and secure some preliminary inventory. Approximately half of the grant will go toward advertising to scale the shop and brand as quickly as possible.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Instagram: @lovecardsca

Website coming soon: www.lovecardsshop.myshopify.com

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

I’m so excited to get started and I’m incredibly grateful for this grant!

Teahead Co.

Roman Kashcheev, Andres Dovale; Co-Founders

Teahead Co. is the place to buy pinnacle teas & teaware, learn about tea & tea culture, escape routine and embark on your tea discovery journey. Our mission is to disrupt the acceptance of low quality commodity tea as the status quo, and bring quality tea culture to the Canadian masses. Teahead will push the limits of what you thought tea could be – its ability to ease the mind, soothe the soul, or just be delicious.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Andres: It all started over cups of tea that Roman would brew for us at his house. Roman has a long history of being a tea geek and connoisseur, and really introduced me to that world, and I became hooked. We were both surprised by the lack of tea consciousness in Toronto, given how good it could be. It was then when we realized that we were in a perfect position to do something about it. As a law student I knew legal costs would be a hindrance for us both, so we just did everything ourselves. I concentrated on legal work and finance, while Roman focused on the product side and marketing. This combination is proving to be very effective.

Give us some background on your business.

Teahead is about cultivating (no pun intended) a love and appreciation for the finest teas from around the world in Canada. We saw a huge gap between what Canadians consume and have come to know as tea, and what top grade teas actually taste like. We are here to change that, and elevate the tea standard in Canada. It’s time to throw out your teabags!

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The process of bringing an idea into reality is very exciting for both of us, especially since it’s centered around something we are both passionate about. Even the smallest steps feel like accomplishments, because we have full ownership and responsibility of the endeavour.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Andres: Our goal is to finalize the website, and source our initial collection of teas & teaware. Once we are set to go, we will use the funding to launch targeted advertising campaigns on social media.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Roman: Visit teahead.co for more information. You can also follow @teaheadco on Instagram, there is a lot of interesting educational and philosophical content coming 😉

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Despite the challenging reality that we all find ourselves in today, it’s important to stay grounded, present, and appreciate the little things in our daily lives. We hope that our tea can allow Canadians to achieve this.

Qbeauté Beauty Supply Co.

Sharon Jojolola, Titilayo Akinbode, Lillian Aboagye

Qbeauté Beauty Supply Co. is an online beauty supply company whose mission is to provide our customers with quality and affordable beauty products. Our vision is to promote and celebrate the uniqueness of individual beauty through the creation of an e-store that offers a range of quality, accessible, and affordable beauty products. Our products and services are specifically catered to Black people. We are different from our competitors because we are dedicated to supporting Black-owned Canadian beauty businesses, by giving them the opportunity to sell on our platform.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Our team comprises three general partners; Sharon Jojolola (20), Titilayo Akinbode (22), and Lillian Aboagye (22). Sharon has a Bachelors of Arts and plans to pursue an MBA. Titilayo is currently pursuing her Bachelors of Science. She considers herself a beauty enthusiast and advocates for black beauty products. Lillian has a Bachelors of Arts, and plans to go to Law School to study Law. All three partners met in University and have been friends for over four years. We founded Qbeauté because we noticed the inaccessibility of beauty products catered to Black people in Canadian beauty supply stores, and the unfair prices of the few accessible products. We created this platform to solve the gap in the Canadian beauty industry. We understand that beauty comes in different forms, and that is why we wanted to create an e-store that celebrates and embraces all forms of beauty.

Give us some background on your business.

Qbeauté sell a range of beauty products. These include hair and grooming products for both men and women, lashes, Wigs and wig care products, nail care products, and Makeup products. We will partner with an array of Black-owned Canadian beauty businesses who create beauty products, in order to make some of these products available to our customers. Our business will solve the problem of under representation in the beauty industry.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Our biggest inspiration as aspiring entrepreneurs is to inspire others from our community to pursue their dreams and challenge themselves to create their dream job that can help pave the way for other people. Essentially, we want to develop solutions to problems present within our community that will make people’s lives easier. Therefore, we hope to be that example and pave the way for aspiring young Black entrepreneurs in Canada.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thank you for selecting us for the grant. We genuinely appreciate it. We look forward to using the $5,000 grant towards covering most of our expenses, such as product cost, shipping cost, marketing cost, software and technology maintenance cost, and an emergency fund. We also hope that this grant will help us push our business on the right path of expansion and branch out to a broader audience in Canada.

Where can we learn more about your business?

The website will launch this November, stay tuned: qbeaute.ca

Instagram: qbeautecanada

Facebook: QBeauteCanada

Email: [email protected]

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Yes we do! We are glad you asked! Multiple business owners that we had the chance to meet and talk with, asked if we had a physical location for them to sell their products, so that initially sparked our future aim for this business. In the future, when we have the opportunity to scale our business, we would love to open a warehouse/physical location in the GTA and in other populous cities. This physical location and warehouse will allow business owners to bring their products to our store and make commission based sales. Customers can have access to these products by shopping in the store section. The warehouse section will be used for storage and fulfillment of orders placed through our online store. We also hope to do philanthropy work through our business such as essential goods drive, scholarship giveaways, sponsorships, education and much more. The sky’s the limit!

Bombshell Boxing

Christina Morrow, Founder

Bombshell Boxing creates high-quality, environmentally conscious, and ethically made activewear for women in martial arts. 100% made in Canada, our activewear is designed to help women feel better represented within the sport, heighten their performance, and increase comfort while training. At Bombshell Boxing, we’re aiming to make martial arts a more inclusive and empowering space for women.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I’m finishing up a degree in International Relations at UBC. I’m currently completing the League of Innovators LABS program, and I usually train Muay Thai 4-6 times a week. I love martial arts because it allows me to push the limits of what my body is capable of. Muay Thai has taught me self discipline, made me stronger, and allowed me to improve at something well beyond the age of 18. Martial arts has created a community for me here in Vancouver, and because of my love for the sport, the idea for Bombshell Boxing was born. I want to welcome more women into the sport that has given me so much.

Give us some background on your business.

At Bombshell Boxing, we believe that there is a serious need for martial arts activewear designed by women, for women. Our goal with Bombshell Boxing is to provide high-quality, Canadian-made, and ethically sourced activewear for women in martial arts. By doing this, women in martial arts will no longer need to wear men’s or unisex gear to train, because they’ll have a brand they know and trust that caters to their needs.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Probably all of the women who have reached out to me so far expressing how excited they are about the brand. I’ve had a number of women who practice Jiu Jitsu tell me how stoked they are to have women’s gear, rather than extra small men’s or unisex. Being in an industry that is so male dominated, I am excited to help bring more women into the fold. I am also excited to work hand in hand with women who are at the top of the sport to create the best available activewear on the market.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

This grant will allow us to begin research and development into the manufacturing of women’s gear for Jiu Jitsu. Women’s rash guards and spats are few and far between right now, and women who practice Jiu Jitsu are often forced to wear unisex rash guards or rash guards that are made specifically for men. I will also use a portion of the grant funding to hire a professional photographer to take photos highlighting our activewear being worn during training. Finally, I will set aside a portion of the grant funding to update our website, as my beginner Shopify skills could only go so far.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can checkout our website at http://www.bombshellboxing.com or our social media channels (Instagram and Facebook) at @bombshellboxing. Instagram is our most up to date social media channel, so that’s the one to watch.

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’re releasing embroidered hoodies and black baseball caps in early December! The hoodies are made of bamboo, so they’re incredibly soft, and the baseball caps are waterproof and made in Richmond, BC. Hopefully our first rash guard/spat combo will be released in early spring, so keep an eye on our social media channels for updates!

ProShyft

Cameron Stephens, CEO & Co-Founder

We believe the accounting industry is poised for a significant shift in how professional services are rendered; moving on from the traditional brick and mortar offices to a new virtual space that welcomes technology and eliminates costly overhead expenses. We are building ProShyft to be an online marketplace that clients can use to find on-demand professionals for all their accounting needs and for said professionals to find new clients to add to their portfolios. We will have a hands-on approach to ensure that we only allow quality clients and highly vetted professionals on the platform.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I am a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) that has worked at a large national accounting firm for 3 and half years before I founded ProShyft. Being an entrepreneur has always been the goal of mine since before I started my Bachelor of Commerce degree. I have had lots side hustles while growing up whether it was buying and reselling various items such as vehicles, hockey cards, or playing video games for money; I always wanted something that I had full control in. While working at my previous accounting firm, I noticed many inefficiencies and the lack of flexibility that is inherent within many firms regarding their clients and staff. This led me to wondering if there is a better solution available that could meet the needs of both the clients and professionals, to which the idea for ProShyft was created.

Give us some background on your business.

With ProShyft, we want to provide an alternative solution to your traditional accounting firm for small business owners to access on-demand virtual services at a more affordable solution. ProShyft is not an accounting firm and that will be the biggest difference between us and traditional firms. Instead we are a two-sided marketplace that will facilitate/manage the relationships between the small business owners and professionals who are using our platform. We are creating this platform for small business owners who are looking for on-demand virtual accounting services whether its external compliance related matters or bookkeeping services. Small business owners can access professionals immediately to receive the services at a more affordable price due our lean infrastructure which cuts out the large overhead expenses inherent within traditional accounting firms. Our platform allows for services to be rendered quicker to ensure no missed deadlines. Lastly, small business owners can put full trust into ProShyft as all the professionals on our platform will be Canadian only and will have gone through a robust vetting process to ensure they meet our requirements. For the professional side, the ones who want to go out on their own but are struggling with the aspect of getting clients can utilize our platform to offer their services to supplement their income. It will allow them to have full autonomy to set their own hours and pay rate, opportunity for higher earnings potential, flexibility to work anywhere they want and allow them to choose what projects to work on that meets their expertise. In addition, those solo or small team of practitioners who are already established can use the platform to complement their existing practice.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

There are many factors that excite me when it comes to being an entrepreneur, whether it is the flexibility, leadership, vision, control, etc. But I believe the most important aspect is helping clients, as this is what I enjoy the most as a CPA. During my time within public accounting I really strived towards connecting with clients and learning about them, but due to the limitations of working within a firm, you can only do so much. Creating ProShyft provides me the opportunity to help small businesses succeed at a much larger scale than I could have done, had I stayed at my prior firm.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thank you! We are super ecstatic ProShyft was selected as a recipient of the Canada Starts grant and are very appreciative of Ownr, Staples, Shopify, and Moneries for putting this program together. We plan on using this grant to help us cover legal expenses required for incorporation and to kickstart our marketing efforts. We estimate that majority of this grant will be used towards executing our marketing plan to generate exposure for ProShyft.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can visit us at http://www.ProShyft.com or through our social media accounts for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn @ProShyft. The platform will be ready in December with full launch likely coming either December or January, however we are operational right now with professionals available to provide future small business owners with on-demand accounting solutions.

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

As a new Startup, we plan on only targeting Alberta at the beginning. However, we are hoping as we grow and understand our business model more and receiving feedback from various users that we will have the platform ready to be launched across Canada before 2022.

Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic

Adam Starr, Maxwell Gauthier; Co-Founders

Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic (DST) is a waste management company that remanufactures plastic waste into consumer and industrial products via our semi-industrial shredder and injection machines. DST differs from traditional recycling methods in that we keep plastic waste local. In other words, we collect, sort, clean, and remanufacture plastic waste in the community it is consumed in. Starting at St. Francis Xavier University (St.FX), our aim is to divert plastic waste from landfills and oceans by creating a value-recovery system that empowers St.FX to manage their own plastic waste. This community-based solution to recycling does not yet exist in Canada and we hope to implement this solution to other academic institutions.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

We are both recent business graduates from the Schwartz School of Business at St. Francis Xavier University. In the summer of 2019, we were given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study community development abroad in Ghana, West Africa, and participate in a social justice internship. While there, we were stunned by the sheer volume of plastic waste everywhere, especially in people’s backyards. However, we worked with a local NGO that introduced us to a unique alternative to traditional recycling that will be directly addressing Ghana’s plastic crisis. In Ghana, we saw the detrimental effects that plastic pollution has on the environment and human health. We didn’t just hear about it, we saw people burning plastic on the side of the streets because they have no other way of dealing with it. As Canadians, we have the privilege of passing off our plastic waste and forcing the responsibility onto waste management companies. There is no denying that our current recycling systems are not effective in addressing the plastic crisis we all face. Additionally, there is not enough individual action surrounding plastic waste. This is because every natural ecosystem is extensively polluted every day and as Canadians, we have never felt obliged to take climate action as we do not see the negative effects directly. We are here to change that.

Give us some background on your business.

Our solution is a community-based (grassroot) approach to the global plastic crisis that involves diverting plastic waste from landfills and oceans by creating a value-recovery system from plastic waste. Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic (DST) aims to localize plastic waste management in Canada by empowering communities to manage their own plastic waste. We are implementing an effective alternative to traditional recycling: community-based recycling. This decentralized waste management approach ensures that the collecting, cleaning, sorting, and repurposing of plastic waste is managed by the community it resides in. For community-based recycling to be effective in diverting plastic waste from landfills and oceans, we must discover the most practical way to solve the contamination issue. We believe our small scale and community-based strategy to plastic waste management will solve the overwhelming problem that waste management companies face – receiving an excess amount of contaminated plastic. Our solution will be piloted at St.FX University, where we will partner with engineers and chemists to solve the root problem (contamination) on a small-scale. Starting October 2020, we will be utilizing two semi-industrial machines (shredder and injection machines) that transform plastic waste into any product that is desired by the St.FX community. The Shredder converts plastic waste into thousands of small flakes while the injection machine heats the small flakes and presses them into a mould. These unique moulds can create a variety of products such as kitchen utensils, drinkware, laptop/phone cases, coasters, building materials, or anything that can be physically engineered. The value proposition of our solution is four-fold: 1. Cleans the environment by diverting plastic waste before it enters local landfills and oceans. 2. Educates university staff and students about plastic pollution and the need for responsible waste disposal. 3. Empowers universities to start their own recycling workspaces, offering performance benchmarks for diverting plastic and creating employment opportunities. 4. Creates unique and innovative revenue streams from repurposed plastic products. DST is following the recommendations of Precious Plastic, an organization that acts as an open-source digital commons for this type of plastic recycling. They are providing us with machine blueprints, educational resources and access to their vast network of recyclers around the globe. To start, we will be collecting plastic waste from Facilities Management and Sodexo (the university’s food caterer). This plastic waste will then be processed through our machines. We have decided to collect and process three types of thermoplastic: HDPE (e.g. milk containers, shampoo bottles, bottle caps), PP (e.g. Tupperware, yogurt boxes, syrup bottles), and PS (e.g. disposable coffee cups, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery). HDPE, PP, and PS are easier to shred and inject compared to other plastics and they present little to no health or safety hazards. These types are also consumed and disposed of at high volumes in academic settings. The products we produce will be sold through the St.FX Bookstore’s retail location and e-commerce platform.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Our biggest inspiration comes from our experience. When we were in Ghana we experienced the effects of the plastic crisis firsthand – the effects that everyone “talks” about. We didn’t just talk about it, we lived it. This grew our passion to resolve the plastic waste crisis and we believe that understanding the problem by experiencing it first hand is priceless. For these reasons, today, we are inspired to bring the same solution to St.FX University and the town of Antigonish with our own unique twist. We cannot simply wait for massive corporations to change how they produce plastic – they control the supply. Rather, as consumers, we must change the way we interact with plastic – we control the demand. Specifically, we must redefine traditional recycling by repurposing plastic instead of recycling it. Plastic is a valuable resource and we aim to turn trash (plastic) into treasure (products).

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

We are so grateful for receiving the $5,000 grant. We will start by allocating 70% of our funding to obtain product molds that are essential for creating products from the plastic waste we collect. The remaining 30% will be used to obtain collection bins. We need the bins to ensure we have a steady stream of plastic coming to our workspace and molds to create valuable products for students, faculty, and staff to purchase.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Facebook: Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic

Instagram: @drasticscholasticthermoplastic

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

DST transforms plastic waste into products, but at the core, we are service-oriented. We believe that a community-based solution, scaled correctly, can solve the global plastic problem. We envision our service as a franchise package for academic institutions to implement themselves. Before we do that, we must overcome the hurdle of contaminated plastic in our waste streams. We recognize that the biggest challenge we will face is dealing with contaminated plastic. Currently, 91% of Canadian plastic is not recycled and therefore ends up in landfills or oceans, due to high levels of contamination (Environment and Climate Change Report, 2019). At academic institutions, the majority of plastic waste is contaminated with food, chemical, and microbial impurities. As a result, otherwise recyclable material is deemed landfill waste. In order to divert plastic waste and therefore achieve a value-recovery system, we must first develop a decontamination system that produces a steady stream of clean plastic. This technology must be capable of handling the various types of contaminants present at academic institutions. In the short-term, October 2020 – August 2021, we will be working with our team of engineers to develop process improvements that lead to an increased amount of diverted plastic and plastic value recovery (performance benchmarks). Simultaneously, we will be creating the first, go-to-market, “DST Package”. This package will provide franchisees with performance benchmarks and all the necessary tools to implement community-based recycling at their respective institution. This package includes machines, equipment, decontamination technology, educational resources, product molds, and operating information. In the long-term, September 2021 – January 2023, we will be implementing our improved solution at St. Mary’s University while obtaining a Masters in Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This Masters program is solely designed to enhance start-ups, which will forge us the opportunity to finalize our go-to-market package. With our package finalized, we will be reaching out to other universities and colleges within Nova Scotia, and eventually nation-wide, to implement our solution in their local contexts.

Couply

Denesh Raymond, Tim Johnson; Co-Founders

Couply has a simple goal: we want to use technology to help bring couples closer together. While there are many apps that help spark relationships, there aren’t so many for those that are already in one – we wanted to create an app for couples. We’ve created the Couply personality mesh test, which will show you areas in which you and your partner mesh and areas in which you might have challenges. Couply will then provide custom date ideas and relationship advice that is all custom tailored to your relationship!

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Denesh: Myself and my co-founder Tim Johnson both worked at Wattpad in very different roles. I worked as a developer and Tim on the Brand Partnerships team. For the last few years, I’ve been with Connected, working on a host of apps and products as a tech lead. Tim approached me and walked me through some slides on his idea for Couply seeking a technical co-founder. I was sure that an app like this would exist. After some research in the space, I was shocked it didn’t! The rest is history. Tim: Denesh had a mystique near-legendary status from his time at Wattpad for being able to find a solution for any problem. I had the idea for Couply, and went to pitch it to him as I knew this would need a technical co-founder to become a reality. As a man of few words, I wasn’t sure what Denesh initially thought. I was thrilled when he was open to coming on as a co-founder to bring this to life. We’ve poured a lot of time creating what I think is a really incredible product. Our early testing has gotten us excited to approach our launch.

Give us some background on your business.

The idea of Couply is simple: we are an app to help bring couples closer together. The app will be completely custom for each couple using it. So depending on your partner’s personality and the things that are important to them in a relationship you’ll get ideas and inspiration designed just for them. Some examples; Perhaps ‘words of praise’ are really important to your partner, so a simple love note on their desk could go a long way. Maybe they sit more on the introverted scale and register high on creativity – if that’s the case you’ll get some great date ideas that will match that as well. There are some really incredible personality studies out there and fantastic books written on how these impact your relationship. We leveraged a lot of this work as we built our own large-scale mesh test and then used those insights to power our whole app. This means that Couply will give you custom ideas that match your partner’s wants. It’s obviously up to our users to act on this, but we’ve given them some simple tools that they can use right in the app. The feedback from our early testers was fantastic, for example something as small as picking up one partner who is a foodie some tasty treats can change the whole dynamic of an evening and make them feel loved. That’s what we are truly excited about – actually helping our audience make their relationships better right away. Future proofing your long term relationship and being the best partner to your significant other that you can be!

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Tim: Both my father and brother are founders and entrepreneurs, so I have got to see them both grow their businesses and witness the passion and grit it requires. In my professional life, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work at Wattpad for almost five years . Our Co-Founders Allen and Ivan are probably my biggest inspirations, they way they’ve built Wattpad is just incredible. Denesh: After having worked in the tech industry for some time now, the dream has always been to branch off and do something on my own. Not only does that give me a sense of self accomplishment, the feeling of being able to help others through something I’ve created really gets me excited and keeps me going.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thank you, we are so thrilled to be recipients! Getting the email that we already had some buy-in has been so motivating. This will allow us to register our business and launch Couply on iOS and Android. We’ve got some pretty fun marketing ideas to drive buzz and awareness, so watch this space as we launch!

Where can we learn more about your business?

Please sign up to be an early adopter at http://www.couply.io – we can’t wait to share Couply with you!

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’re really close to launching the Couply app on iOS and Android. Right now we have hundreds of people that have signed up for an early release via http://www.couply.io so we are looking forward to launching the first iteration of Couply and getting lots of valuable audience feedback.

Tudu

Michael Wong, Founder

Tudu is a social platform for locals to find, create and share self-guided itineraries for date nights and things to do in their own city. With Covid discouraging travel, Tudu gives people an incentive to leave their house and gain new experiences by discovering new restaurants and local gems.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I have 7 years experience building web platforms at tech companies including Google. I am also the founder of @todotoronto, one of the largest sources for things to do in Toronto, with almost 70k local followers. My first business was in retail, selling tablecloths and fabrics at local farmers markets. After discovering my passion in tech, I got my bachelors of computer science from Queens’ University, and combined it with my passion of entrepreneurship to build and start many different app and web platforms.

Give us some background on your business.

Tudu allows locals to easily and quickly find plans for things to do in their own city – for free! We want to use this platform to help local influencers share all the hidden gems and great places/businesses that people may not have heard about. On the flip side, for the local Torontonian, they will be able to get an idea for a date night, or fun day out with friends in seconds. I have worked with many different restaurants in the past, and there are most definitely many that really should be getting more attention.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The amount of opportunity available right now as technology becomes more and more entrenched in everyone’s lives as well as different industries inspires me to constantly innovate.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The grant will be used primarily towards marketing, and finding product-market fit. We have several strategies planned to experiment with different demographics which we are looking forward to testing!

Where can we learn more about your business?

Our site is located at http://www.whatstudu.com. We also have an instagram channel at @whatstudu

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

If you are interested in creating or checking out our content, feel free to check us out at http://www.whatstudu.com! We are gathering user feedback and would love any thoughts on how we can make this site more useful to everyone.

Bridge Textbooks

Ben Gigone

Bridge Textbooks is a campus-specific marketplace for students to easily – and safely – buy and sell used textbooks. By implementing an Escrow-like payment service to facilitate cashless transactions, students will be able to securely buy and sell textbooks with their peers – right on campus. Our goal is to help students spend less on expensive textbooks, and put some extra cash in their pockets!

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I was lucky enough to grow up with entrepreneurial parents, so forging my own path in business has been instilled in me since a young age. During my Master’s program (I studied Aerospace Engineer at the University of Toronto), I embarked upon my first “real” venture with a few friends, where we created an autonomous beach-cleaning robot. After spending just a few months in the start-up world (attempting to raise seed money, freaking out at pitch competitions, etc.) I was officially hooked. After graduation, I wanted to focus on solving problems that were important to me, and that could have a widespread impact. As a lover of higher-education, I found myself drawn towards issues related to school, and decided to tackle something that left a bad taste in my mouth (and my wallet!). Bridge Textbooks was born.

Give us some background on your business.

Bridge Textbooks will offer a campus-specific marketplace to allow students to buy and sell used textbooks. Our marketplace will exist primarily as a mobile application and will be free for students to use. Students will be able to post their used books to make some extra cash and browse available listings to help save on their textbook costs. We also plan to implement an Escrow-like payment service to facilitate cashless transactions and increase the security associated with person-to-person transactions.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, I’m always inspired by people who harness technology to make real change. Using skills that take time to learn and implementing them into something new is an incredibly difficult process – and ending up with a result that solves a problem for someone is incredible. While making the buying and selling process of used textbooks is hardly on the same level as solving world hunger, knowing that someone’s experience could be made easier through a service I helped to create constantly motivates me.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Bridge is so excited to launch our company through the Canada Starts program. We plan to use the $5,000 grant to implement some design upgrades to our application, and to execute an Ontario-wide marketing plan to get our first few users. We’re so excited to have been considered, and can’t wait to see what the future brings for our company.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can find out more about Bridge at our website (bridgetextbooks.com), on Instagram (@bridgetextbooks), or on our mobile app (Bridge Textbooks on the iOS App Store!).

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’re aiming to be available at every major University and College in Ontario by January 2021! Look us up on the app store or follow us on our Instagram to stay updated.

The Frogger Niagara

Maria Dziarkach, Owner

Every knit and crochet artist dreads frogging- having to unravel their project because of an error. Even worse than frogging is a cashmere sweater gone to landfill despite being fully recyclable. Frogging is pretty satisfying when it involves bringing back the full potential of a damaged item. With sky-high prices of brand new yarn (and justifiably so), recycled yarn is a fantastic, more affordable way to knit up that dream garment.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I started knitting in 2016 after a series of stressful events relating to being a new University student and novice in life. I went to a knitting group at the local café with my best friend, ready to dish out my misfortunes. My best friend handed me a pair of needles to shut me up and showed me how to cast on, purl, and knit. From there, I was enamoured. I intended to knit a cashmere scarf, thinking the materials would be cheaper than buying something outright. Boy, was I wrong. And from there, I learned more and more about textile arts and the industry itself. I became hyper aware of fabric types and their structures, and became curious about how they were made. I started unraveling damaged sweaters after becoming ill and having to take a break from my nursing program. I was always good at spotting natural fibres and finding quality garments. This likely came from working in a designer dress shop when I was 16. As well as being taught by my parents how to spot quality in clothing.

Give us some background on your business.

The Frogger Niagara fully reclaims damaged, end-of-life sweaters and maintains the yarn and fibre integrity while doing so. This involves deconstructing the garment, unraveling the knit, and then washing the yarn in an antiseptic and anti-moth cedarwood bath. The yarn is then caked (rolled into an easy access ball) and ready to become a garment again in the hands of crafters!

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The circular economy model. Endless growth is impossible, but maximizing your community’s opportunities ensures your efforts will make a lasting impact (and help you stay in business)!

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

I’m looking to purchase and build more efficient textile processing equipment and set up a proper website! These funds will also cover future vendor fees for craft markets.

Where can we learn more about your business?

The Frogger Niagara is on Facebook and Instagram (@thefroggerniagara), and you can check out my products currently on my Etsy page: etsy.com/ca/shop/thefroggerniagara

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

If you have damaged cashmere, wool, or any other natural fiber garments you’re willing to part with, don’t throw them out! Contact me through my social media and I’ll make sure to recycle them properly!

WrkBoost

Mohammed Adnan Raza, Founder

WrkBoost platform is geared to unlock firm value output by aligning corporate strategic objectives to individual tasks, instituting continuous feedback process, and ensuring overall employee well-being.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I am passionate about problem solving and enabling frictionless experience. I come from a humble background in India and have learned first hand from my dad (a teacher turned entreprenuer), the value of continuous learning & the importance of investing in the community you serve in. While working with him, I have experienced the challenges of running a small business, in a capital starved system while making most of the resources you have in hand – the idea summed up in an Indian concept called “Jugad” – a frugal invention mindset to solve a problem. I have always been fascinated by the pace of change, technology can bring in while ensuring an engaging experience. Over the last decade, I have worked as a problem solver & change agent in various industries from high-tech, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, & financial services to drive client oriented successful outcomes. More recently, as I have been working on understanding the future of workplace to help define the role of our business (as a wealth & asset manager), I see a major gap in the industry in the way we continue to measure and incentivize employee engagement & well-being. This issue has been further exaggerated due to the changes bought in by the growth in gig economy & current global pandemic. My goal is to help drive employee well-being, leveraging a transparent and a robust solution.

Give us some background on your business.

Employee engagement platform focused on driving meaningful conversations, delivering key actionable insights, and leveraging behavioural nudge techniques to improve employee experience and well-being. Our vision is to have Happy, Engaged and Supported Employees who bring their best to their organizations.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I draw my inspirations from the great leaders of the past and present, who have not settled for mediocre and have challenge the norm to revolutionize experience. I was recently reminded by a TED presentation Jeff Bezos made in the summer of 2007 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMKNUylmanQ) that change agents are often the ones who are not comfortable with the norm and have used that eerie sense of uneasiness as a strength to drive change. Technology, including virtualization, AI, XAAS based building blocks has decreased the cost of innovation and more importantly enabled successive testing to validate & quickly apply feedback to your value offering.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thanks to the seed grant provided by Canada Starts, we will be able to mobilize towards incorporating & setting up the business, which includes company registration and market research & validation.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can learn more about us from our website at www.wrkboost.com.

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We look forward to driving employee well-being and productivity through meaningful continuous conversations and actionable insights.

TVAAG

Meghal Vijayan

TVAAG is a revolutionary Sustainable Activewear company that develops new-age Plant-based Fabrics. TVAAG’s products are unique in the fact that not just its Fabrics are sourced from Plants, but also its dyes. The dyes are extracted from Medicinal Herbs, scientifically known for its wellness properties. TVAAG has designed a ‘Plant-Influx’ Technology, which is a unique dyeing process using a combination of 24 herbs, that imparts its properties onto the fabric.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

As a child growing up in an Indian family, I often helped my mother make clothing and my father, a nature enthusiast, used healing plants to treat ailments. I was curious to know why couldn’t the same type of healing herbs that I grew up with, be used in clothing. Seeing the effect of fast fashion pollution has had on our environment, I had a dream to start a revolution in fabric. Drawing inspiration from what both my mother and father had taught me, I set out to make clothing from natural materials. To do this, I tapped into traditional methods of cloth making and spent months travelling to villages in India, where people actually made clothes using natural materials and non-toxic methods. That was valuable learning which would set the future tone of TVAAG. After almost a year of development and research, our team created an innovative clothing product made from plant-based fibres and dyed with a unique combination of 24 medicinal herbs, which are beneficial to the human skin This is when TVAAG was born. (TVAAG is derived from Ancient Sanskrit word meaning “skin”)

Give us some background on your business.

The key value proposition TVAAG’s products is its unique ‘Plant-Influx’ Fabric technology that enables us to create sustainable clothing sourced from plant fibers and blend them seamlessly with plant dyes. Finally the end product goes through a special process of being infused with Herbal Essential Oils to give it a natural fragrance which combats body-odour causing bacteria. This also imparts the wearer a soothing experience due to the aromatherapeutic properties. Since there are no synthetic dyes used here, every TVAAG product is unique in its look, gradient and texture. TVAAG is not just clothing, but rather an experience. Our company is founded on our 3-Leaf philosophy – Plant-based Lifestyle, Environmental Sustainability and Mindfulness. We are the only Athleisure brand in Canada to put Mindfulness of our community as a core priority. Our fabrics are high-performance and sustainable at the same time.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest inspiration is creating a future where our planet’s resources are used sustainably and distributed justly. At the same time, there must be a collective rise in Human consciousness . Because I believe only a conscious individual can give way to a sustainable society, not the other way round.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

As with all startups, we are currently bootstrapping and going through critical phases in our journey. So the grant came as a blessing for our Team. We cant express our gratitude in words The amount received from the grant will go towards incorporating our company, launching on Kickstarter and creating marketing materials for our promotion. This will help give us more traction to our launch.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Further details of our upcoming products and launch dates can be seen below. You can sign-up for our newsletter on our website.

Website: http://www.tvaagnation.com

Instagram: @tvaagnation

Faceboook: @tvaag

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We will enter the market this year through Kickstarter with Women’s Leggings as our first product. Eventually we will be expanding to an expansive portfolio of products, ranging from Bottoms and Tops to Shoes and Jackets etc. all made from Plants. We aim to position ourselves as the largest Plant-based Apparel name in Canada within the next 5 years. Through our brand, we want to create sustainable clothing to save our Mother Earth and the Human race from fast fashion pollution.

Copysmith

Jasmine Wang, CEO & Founder

Copysmith uses cutting-edge natural language processing to 10X your content marketing workflow. Generate a dozen variants of your ad, product description, or landing page at the click of a button. The place to go to brainstorm, collaborate on, and evaluate your content marketing.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I started a Shopify store in 2019 and realized how painful content marketing was. For a new Shopify store looking to differentiate itself, branding and content are one of the most important work along with design. I had no extra money to hire an agency, and didn’t trust a freelancer to do it, so I did it all myself, and sunk hours into the process. My background is in natural language processing. There was a huge lightbulb moment where I realized I should apply my technical interests to a real business need.

Give us some background on your business.

Copysmith just launched this week and will aid folks in their content marketing along several axes. First, we help you brainstorm copy – just enter a few prompts and spin up dozens of variants of prose in seconds that you can edit down and tune for your company. Second, we help you collaborate on and manage your content. Move out of your spreadsheets and easily collect multi-stakeholder feedback on ads that are rendered exactly like they’ll appear once deployed. Finally, we are building an evaluation pipeline to help you iterate towards even more effective content.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I’m excited by, and admire, founders who run great companies and also read and write extensively: think Patrick Collison, Elon Musk, Andrew Kortina.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

This will go towards supporting our engineering team in making our product even better!

Where can we learn more about your business?

https://copysmith.ai/ https://twitter.com/copysmith_ai

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We want to work with and support Canadian entrepreneurs!

Sol Gourmet

Lina Ravelojaona, Founder

Sol Gourmet or fine cuisine right at home. Our exclusive spice blends will elevate your home cooked meals, honoring your sense in the purest artisanal tradition of marrying flavors. Generosity, authenticity and love of the finest ingredients, that’s everything that defines us at Sol Gourmet. We are obsessed with making your experience unique and making you want to share it.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I am a fine food enthusiast who wants to bring something truly unique and exclusive into the specialty food industry. Originally from Madagascar, I also wanted to do something with my identity, working with the finest spices of the country Island while giving back to the local farmers by valuing their authentic, traditional ways of growing spices; a true treasure. As far as I can remember, I have always been attracted to the idea of creating something that will make sense to me and ultimately make sense to others. My entrepreneurship journey started with me going on this quest of discovering myself, my values and my identity; and it is such an incredible journey.

Give us some background on your business.

Sol Gourmet will offer, hand-picked Gourmet spices, exclusive seasoning blends and toppings, to elevate home cooked meals across North America through its online store, online retailers and partners – positioning itself in the specialty food industry, the gifts/corporate gifts market and the subscription boxes market. We will also supply independent gourmet cafes and bakeries.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship is to me, more than the ultimate attempt to build something, it is sharing my “ideal world” with people who would hopefully want to be in it as well. This, and to positively impact everything around me.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

This truly appreciated grant will kick start this amazing venture by investing it into legally building the company and the brand (Incorporating, working on the future packaging, the branding and the marketing).

Where can we learn more about your business?

We are still working on the website but please, feel free to follow us @_SolGourmet_

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

I wanted to take these few lines to thank this initiative. I believe small businesses are the back bone of the economy and the symbolic of supporting Entrepreneurs who did not started their business yet and who even might have retracted because of COVID-19 is a strong message.

The Inclusion Playground

Rebecca Murray PSW RSW

We believe that everyone should feel like they belong. The Inclusion Playland is an educational daycare and out of school program with a focus on providing supportive, inclusive programming. What makes this daycare inclusive is the imbedded use of American Sign Language in all programming. Further the implementation of a sensory program, providing resources and online workshops to improve families and enhance parenting skills.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I dedicate my life to helping people: As a support worker with over 16 years of experience, I am committed to helping all children and youths learn more about themselves, relationships and be able to communicate their needs. Apply social work towards empowering others in achieving whatever they want to do and dream to become. I completed a self-employment training course that provided me with more knowledge to open the business I wanted.

Give us some background on your business.

Helping people help themselves through play and communication. Children aged two to thirteen play, learn, and communicate through projects, interactive games, small group participation and experiences from ten different developmental domains. There are 14 types of structured activities that are designed to increase social skills and communication. Incorporates the three main ways that people learn: Visual using pictures, images, and symbols. Verbal demonstrated by speech, storytelling, rhyming, and singing. Kinesthetic occurs with dancing, using tactile manipulatives, and body movements. Free play is focused on loose parts play which is self-directed and increases problem solving and sensory play which improves concentration/focus.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I have been fortunate to have had several business mentors who have supported me, provided me with resources and feedback on projects. Because I am a hearing-impaired individual, I understand that inclusion increases quality of life. I want to start The Inclusion Playland to provide a supported environment that is client-focused, strengths-based, and goal-directed. My inspiration is using American Sign Language with people who are not deaf. During my career, I’ve used ASL to help empower people who were non verbal. I’ve also taught parents how to use it with pre-verbal children which works to lower frustrations and increases communication.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The grant will be used to purchase a Bubble Column. A Bubble Column will be a visual anchor and a key feature of the daycare. It triggers through colour and visual features the calming effects of the bubbles, the changing colours and the LED lighting are sensory trigger to provide passive stimulus for children, studies have shown the benefits to include improved focus and a openness to learning and cooperation. Construction of a large puppet theater is an additional feature to differentiate the learning model of the Inclusion Playland. Puppets are engaging toys that help support oral language skills and communication. Operated by a social worker who also recognizes the positive social and emotional development that puppets have in helping children communicate, learn, and understand the world around them. It will also be used as a learning tool to support the professional development of the Inclusion Playland team.

Where can we learn more about your business?

http://inclusionplay.com
https://www.facebook.com/inclusionplayland https://www.instagram.com/inclusionandplay www.linkedin.com/in/inclusion

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Expand the sensory program, there is a need for it and continue to grow the loose parts play area.

Patty Assists

Patricia Edafiogho

Pattyassists is a new business venture that will help train senior citizens and immigrants on how to strive in today’s digital world. A good percentage of our population are baby boomers who do not have the skills necessary to thrive in today’s economy. Part of our business packages will include: Training programs such as (Opening and effectively using an email address, how to browse the internet for information, Microsoft basics, how to make bill payments online, how to protect your profile online etc. Teaching English as a second language to new immigrants. Provide daily assisted living programs such as (Cleaners on demand, Personal support workers on demand, Person grocery and errand shoppers on demand)

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I relocated to Canada about 17years ago. Prior to moving to Canada I had always loved running a business and I had run several small scale businesses of my own. Along with my love for helping people I started a career in personal support care for seniors and have been doing this for over 15years. The reason I thought about starting my own business was because during covid times I noticed that a lot of Seniors living at home could not get the help they needed. This prompted me to start a business in this area.

Give us some background on your business.

Part of our business packages will include: Training programs such as (Opening and effectively using an email address, how to browse the internet for information, Microsoft basics, how to make bill payments online, how to protect your profile online etc. Teaching English as a second language to new immigrants. Provide daily assisted living programs such as (Cleaners on demand, Personal support workers on demand, Person grocery and errand shoppers on demand)

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Knowing that I can potentially be doing what I love and helping a lot of people in the process.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thanks for this wonderful opportunity as I don’t think I would have been able to start the business without this grant. I start by registering the business, buying a cheap computer, creating some business set up items such as website and perhaps social media pages. I will create fliers for advertising my services.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Website is not yet done. Instagram is newly done @pattyassists

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

I am interested in developing Pattyassists own adult diaper line in the future.

Goldfinch Energy

Trish Long and Sarah Grant, Co-Founders

Goldfinch Energy is helping homeowners fuel switch to clean technologies that make deep cuts to household carbon emissions. This means replacing gas furnaces with electric heat pumps, switching to electric vehicles and adding solar when possible. Improving efficiency is important too but always with a carbon footprint lens. As a startup Goldfinch Energy is only helping one GTA home fuelswitch at a time, but long term we envision Canada as a place where everyone lives in a sustainable home that doesn’t contribute to climate change.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

In March of 2020 the world changed for almost everyone and we were no exception. With years of experience in climate policy, finance and engineering, COVID disrupted both our jobs and we were left with a blank slate. Having beat the drum on climate for years, we noticed that nobody really got on board until we switched to electric cars in 2017. Electric cars are just better technology and people prefer driving them. Goldfinch Energy is making the same transformation for homes, we make them more comfortable and they don’t rely on burning gas, just like electric cars.

Give us some background on your business.

Goldfinch Energy offers clients two main options: an energy audit and a Cleantech Roadmap. An energy audit is a long-standing, government-approved method of measuring a home’s energy efficiency. It’s immensely helpful in evaluating your home’s building envelope and opportunities to make upgrades. Our Cleantech Roadmap then goes a step further by recommending low-carbon or zero-emission goals for your home and a customized pathway for fuel-switching. The Cleantech Roadmap shows you exactly how many tonnes of carbon emissions you can reduce annually and prioritzies the best way to start.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Starting Goldfinch during COVID gave us only one advantage: people were available to talk. An entreprenurial friend told us to run our idea by 100 people and that’s exactly what we did. At first we had a very short list of names but each person we connected with suggested another person or two that would be willing to share their expertise. It was so inspriing to find people that are well underway fuel switching their homes because they care about everyone’s future well being. Starting Goldfinch has been the scariest chapter of our careers but we are so grateful and encouraged by the support.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

This Canada Starts grant could not have arrived at a better time. We’ve been investing our own savings in energy auditor training and the expensive equipment that goes along with it. We’ve also offered our services for free to family and friends to give us a start and build up our experience. The bills have been mounting but some revenue has just started to trickle in giving us hope. This grant will be pivotal in upping our professional game. We need to incur a few professional expenses and take our services online to help people outside the Greater Toronto Area too. We are so excited to invest this grant in our future (and everyone’s future!)

Where can we learn more about your business?

Please look us up! http://www.goldfinchenergy.ca and we are on facebook too.

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We plan to work like crazy to make Goldfinch Energy a viable enterprise. We love feedback and invite anyone with good ideas to please get it touch with us.

Ficio

Arli Zgjani, Founder

Ficio aims to be the long-term apartment rental platform of the future. By deploying some of the latest technological innovations, we offer independent landlords with a seamless yet comprehensive way to list their residential property for rent, all without the need for an expensive listing agent. Tenants who rent through Ficio find the highest-quality listings, complete with 3D virtual tours and a process that doesn’t require them to even leave their couch to sign their next lease.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

My entrepreneurial journey really began from a moment of frustration I experienced with the status quo of renting an apartment. When I moved from Canada to Spain to pursue an MBA 2 years ago, I needed to find an apartment to rent from abroad. In a world where I can book a hotel with the click of a button or have my favourite restaurant’s food delivered to my door in 30 minutes, I thought it was absurd that the process of finding a long-term rental still heavily relied on a disjointed process of browsing online classifieds websites and contacting landlords or their agents through email or text (and then getting told by many that the unit was no longer available). This motivated me to do something about it, so during the MBA, I slowly began developing the idea as well as building the actual platform. Now that I have completed my MBA and seeing how the pandemic has shifted our behaviours, I still haven’t seen the market truly adapt and so I am further motivated to help make a meaningful improvement for both landlords and tenants.

Give us some background on your business.

Ficio is like a virtual listing agent for landlords who wish to rent out their apartment. All a landlord really needs to do is input their property’s details at the beginning of the process and review applications from tenants at the end of the process while everything in between is managed by us! By digitizing the listing process, we give landlords a third avenue so they can avoid the expensive price that comes with an agent or the amount of work that comes with going the do-it-yourself route. For tenants, Ficio provides some of the highest quality listings, complete with 3D virtual tours so they won’t even need to visit an apartment to properly assess it.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon has been one of the biggest inspirations to me as an aspiring entrepreneur. Having the foresight to anticipate the effects of an emerging technology and the willpower to sacrifice current comfort in order to pursue a dream which he found meaningful I think is a battle many entrepreneurs face prior to actually starting. His story has been a bit of a guide in helping me frame my way through this journey. During this pandemic, I have also been inspired by the sheer resilience and adaptability local entrepreneurs have shown. This pandemic is the biggest test of character many are currently facing and seeing business owners adapt in such challenging and unpredictable times is something worth celebrating.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thank you, I am very excited as this grant will help Ficio get off the ground! Having already built the product, I am now ready to take this product to market. Apart from helping me cover general expenses involved in running this (such as application hosting and business registration), I am looking forward in deploying this grant towards purchasing the equipment needed to shoot virtual tours as well as developing a marketing campaign to increase Ficio’s awareness with our future customers.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can learn more about Ficio by directly going to ficio.ca!

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Once we have succeeded in offering landlords the ultimate solution to list their property for rent and tenants with the best experience for renting their next home, we would also like to offer property management services digitally as an add-on so Ficio can become the one-stop shop every landlord needs in managing their residential rental property.

Ora-3D

Shlesha Van

Ora-3D is an oral health tech start-up with a vision to empower everyday oral care routines by intersecting technology with oral health.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Last year, I went for a regular dental check-up & was detected with several cavities. My hygienist strictly empathised on improving my brushing technique. I was shocked and a little embarrassed. My first instinct was to switch to electric toothbrush. I came and started researching on different oral health care products and educating myself on right oral care habits. However, I realised none of the products I was thinking to buy simulated the right technique. It did not make sense to invest in them if I was to change my habits myself. I was shocked when during my research, I came across reddit and Quora Reponses that mentioned how common this problem was according to dentists. I then reached out to few Dentistry Professors which confirmed the breadth of the problem. Afterall, why do many dentists show us how to brush our teeth during checkups? That me realise, as a non-dentist, even though it was “common sense” to dentists, I had never heard about it and it probably was not common knowledge to any non-dentists. Plus, even if they learnt about it, would it be possible for people to change 20-40 years of their habits after 10mins reading? Studying engineering, I realised there had to be a better solution, and after months of research, surveys, interviews, and mentorships, we have almost designed first release of Ora-3D.

Give us some background on your business.

Without getting into the statistics, the Brushing technique is one of the most important and yet most missed aspects of effective oral care. Ora-3D is a reinvented toothbrush that helps people simulate the right brushing technique, remove plaque from the 3-dimensional tooth surface, and gently clean along the gumline- all with a simple bite and swipe motion. We want to improve people’s oral hygiene and simplify their routines. Key Stats if required: 90% of people brush their teeth wrong and averagely people remove plaque from about 30% of their tooth surface regardless of toothbrush type.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I unexpectedly founded a non-profit start-up at 16 and that experience made me feel empowered because I transformed an optimistic idea to make an impact. Now, being on the journey to found Ora-3D, I am getting the same exact feelings back. Over the year, I have transformed from experiencing a problem at the dentist, trying to solve my need, and then realising the mass impact it could have. I guess that is what keeps me going everyday. The journey to learn and the optimism behind your purpose.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Canada Starts Grant is an amazing opportunity for early founders like me to launch their products! We are excited and thankful to be a recipient! We hope to make the most out of this grant by manufacturing the first line of this product, testing it and preparing for our product launch!

Where can we learn more about your business?

http://www.ora-3d.com
https://www.facebook.com/ora3dtoothbrush
@ora.3d

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We hope to evolve grow further through Canadian start-up ecosystem, increase personal oral health care awareness and make an impact on the community through our products.

Kelp Cosmetics

Olivia Hall, Founder

Kelp Cosmetics is a marine-based skincare brand that harnesses the healing and restorative powers of the ocean to create nutrient-rich and environmentally restorative products. Building on century-old traditional uses, we formulate minimal, clean skincare products consisting of the highest quality ingredients and aquatic plant extracts to nourish skin with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. We also look to use innovative strategies to ensure that our business applies nature-based solutions to have a net-positive influence on marine environments through cultivating oceanic forests. As Kelp Cosmetics grows, our kelp farming practices will promote marine biodiversity, reduce local ocean acidification, while also sequestering carbon from the atmosphere to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Olivia Hall grew up in Western Australia and on the Canadian West Coast, spending a significant amount of time outdoors and in the ocean. These experiences instilled her with a connection to nature and the ocean, inspiring her to become a custodian of these environments that gave her so much. Being from a generation to witness the advances of climate change and environmental degradation from a young age, she felt inspired to create a marine-based skincare brand that utilizes the nutrient dense properties of oceanic forests, that also supports marine biodiversity and carbon sequestration. She is of Saulteaux Métis ancestry and strives to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable Indigenous practices in her business. Olivia has always had an entrepreneurial drive and is excited to launch Kelp Cosmetics.

Give us some background on your business.

Kelp Cosmetics will look to develop a range of marine-based skincare products that consist of the highest quality ingredients and aquatic plant extracts to nourish skin with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. The business intends to harness and use the power of nature, through engaging in kelp farming practices in partnership with Indigenous peoples. The kelp farms the business will use to provide the product ingredients are also of benefit to their marine environments, as they promote biodiversity, reduce local ocean acidification, and sequester planet-warming atmospheric carbon.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest source of inspiration as an aspiring entrepreneur is the quote, “The thing about climate is that you can be overwhelmed by the complexity of the problem, or fall in love with the creativity of the solutions” – Mary Heglar.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

I am beyond grateful for the Canada Starts $5,000 grant, thank you so much. This grant money will be used to help develop our marine-based skincare products, conduct laboratory testing, develop our e-commerce presence, create captivating brand imagery, start our own kelp farm off the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada and assist to launch Kelp Cosmetics.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can learn more about us on Instagram at @Kelpcosmetics. (Website to be made)

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

At Kelp Cosmetics, we believe business decisions must be taken with people, planet and profitability equally in mind; it’s simply our professional responsibility and we’ll always be striving to do better. Our skincare products truly perform and we hold ourselves accountable to unparalleled standards of safety in our clean laboratory made formulations.

Brain Munch

Callum Bayley, Michael Oancea, Liana Evans

brain munch is a direct-to-consumer business selling “productivity snacks” to consumers for increased mental clarity, productivity, and focus. We want to bridge the gap between functional snacks for physical wellness & bring it into mental wellness – something just as important. Brain munch sells two main snacks: our trail mix & our nutrient bars. These products are created with natural ingredients, including peanuts, nuts, dried fruit, & caffeinated dark chocolate. Our products are infused with functional adaptogens (L-theanine, American Ginseng, and Lemon Balm) found in natural teas – resulting in a profound difference in mental performance. We are everything your afternoon coffee wants to be and so much more.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

For each of us, our journey begins at different paths. We are three Queen’s University students with a passion for positive impact & entrepreneurship, but our journeys started much differently. Callum began his own snow shovelling business in high school. Michael created an event-based bubble sports business, and Liana began as a freelance web designer. The idea for our brain munch products was developed this summer during the COVID-19 crisis. We found that we could not escape the lethargy & unproductivity around the afternoon as we worked remotely. The post-lunch dip was real, and no solution could solve it with our time constraints. So we’re setting out to do just that – by creating our functional snack brand and creating some positive change while doing so!

Give us some background on your business.

Brain munch produces trail mix & nutrient bar products that contain essential adaptogens to maximize our customers’ productivity & focus. Our product packages can be delivered straight to customers, saving them the time it would have taken to go out and buy food. Also, the products will be available at productivity-specific locations such as university libraries and co-working spaces. With brain munch, people can remove the friction points from their workflow, focus, and be confident in their nutrition throughout the day.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

To have a positive impact in every area that we touch. The most outstanding entrepreneurs are those that 1) tackle big problems, 2) push society forward 3) can enjoy & share in the journey as it goes!

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

We will be putting our grant to use towards some of the heavy liftings of setting up this business. Canada Starts grant funds enable us to set up our official corporation, getting started on our Shopify web domain, and working on new product development to ensure our products have the highest effectiveness!

Where can we learn more about your business?

Check out brainmunch.ca or brainmunch.com – we’re just working on setting up our domain for our store but will be on the world wide web very soon!

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N World Food Programme has warned that an additional 130 million people could acute food insecurity by the end of 2020, on top of the 135 million people who were already acutely food insecure before the crisis. Brainmunch is a proud sponsor of ShareTheMeal, a U.N Global Food Programme initiative looking to feed children worldwide. With every purchase of our product, we will donate to ShareTheMeal, but regardless of whether you choose to buy from us, we encourage you to contribute! For 80 cents USD, you can feed one child for a day with ShareTheMeal. During a time like this, every cent has a profound impact, so please check it out!

Ready in Five Inc.

Jessie Niles, Founder

Ready in Five radically improves online meetings. Delivered live by top athletes, Ready in Five supercharges your online meeting with 5-minute movement experiences. Ready in Five leaves participants with more energy, engagement and motivation, helping them to achieve what matters the most.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

The company was founded in the fall of 2020 by Jessie Niles, a recently retired professional athlete and member of the Canadian Women’s National Volleyball Team. As an athlete, Jessie was a natural analyst and creative thinker, always searching for a way to improve and help her team. When the global pandemic hit in early 2020, all of Jessie’s training and competitions were cancelled, forcing her, like many, to train and work from home. During this time, Jessie recognized that there was a huge shift oft of businesses moving from physical offices to distributed workplaces leaving people moving and exercising even less than they were before. She soon learned that globally, employers and employees are searching for ways to make remote work a success and are figuring out how to maintain and improve productivity and effectiveness. To solve this challenge, Jessie started Ready in Five.

Give us some background on your business.

The company is a global platform that connects business with athletes around the world. Athletes deliver the Ready in Five experience, which is designed to increase focus, effectiveness and enjoyment during and after online meetings through five minute movement experiences led live by high-performance athletes. Ready in Five is not only launches our customers to be at their best, but it is also changing the world of athletes and students. Working with Ready in Five Athletes helps them to fund their pathway to the podium. Plus, for every session booked, we donate a session to a school to support students to do their best learning online. It is a win for our customers, a win for athletes, and a win for students!

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

One of my greatest inspirations is the nobel prize winning Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Dr. Yunus is the founder of the Grameen Bank and father of social business. His business model has inspired me as I build Ready in Five. My mission is to inspire people to do their best work through the power of movement and human connection. I am also inspired by my father. My father is also an entrepreneur and has been a key source of encouragement and wisdom. I appreciate him immensely!

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

We are extremely thankful for the Canada Starts grant! Our services will be delivered solely online, so we will be using the funding towards building a robust website with fully-integrated booking and payment capabilities.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Website: https://www.getreadyinfive.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/getreadyin5/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GetReadyinFive
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ready-in-five-inc/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4Lvf3SBVoUZZ_9YLn-106Q

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We are currently looking for organizations and corporate teams to become Founding Fans! As our pilot partner, you will get our services (and their benefits!) for free in exchange for your honest feedback. We have a limited number of spots available so get in touch if you’d like to enroll your team. Feel free to send an email to [email protected] or visit http://www.getreadyinfive.com to learn more.

Funjobs.ninja

Funjobs.ninja is an online pre-employment assessment platform which primarily targets creative industry like game developers and animators for testing creative talent during the recruitment process.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

The founders have worked in the creative and digital interactive industry for several years and have a strong network in the industry. The company will tap into this network of game developers, animators, designers, etc. and also network with recruitment agencies, game developers, and animators in Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario for quality leads. Post ads on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and facebook; email marketing through existing job search portals in Canada

Give us some background on your business.

The pre-employment assessment tools in the market today heavily focus on aptitude and skill based, text based or game based questions. Funjobs.ninja will offer tests based on creative assessment framework. Additionally, Funjobs.ninja intends to be a perfect matchmaker rather than just offering pre-employment testing tool. Funjobs.ninja will work as a two-way street where job seekers can take tests from companies of their choice and be discovered by potential employers. Funjobs.ninja is the only company with a focus on creative industries and can potentially become a trend-setter and create a niche for itself.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Revolutionize technology industry with innovative products and platforms

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

A large part will go into business development and advertising of the platform. A portion of it will also go into acquiring creative test formats, and small portion towards development of the platform

Where can we learn more about your business?

We are still working on building the website and developing social media presence

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Our format is scalable. Once we gain traction in the Canadian market, we would like to explore the U.S. and other similar markets in the long run.

Chap Chap Snacks

Tetia Myriam Bayoro, Founder

Chap Chap Snacks is a monthly subscription box company dedicated to offering the best selection of freshly made African-inspired dry snacks. We offer hearty snacks that are rich in fiber, high in protein, made with natural sweeteners, and from whole grain.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began

I am a food adventurer and cooking enthusiast. I am passionate about discovering new flavors and textures from various parts of the world and I appreciate the value of food artisans’ crafts. Chap Chap Snacks is born from my desire to share fresh and tasty African-inspired snacks with my friends, colleagues, and family here in Canada.

Give us some background on your business.

Chap Chap Snacks will be a subscription box committed to making snacks adventurers experience Africa’s vibrancy through the finest handcrafted, and freshly made snacks, every month from the comfort of their home.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Chika Russel, Founder of CHIKA’S, a UK snacks company.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thank you so much for believing in our business as we do! The grant will help Chap Chap Snacks get a tremendous push towards a successful launch and a profitable business. The grant will be used to get all the legal authorizations and operation permits, to fund our inventory, as well as for our initial marketing costs.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Facebook: @ChapChap.Snacks.Box
Instagram: @chapchap.snacks.box
Twitter: @chapchap_snacks
Website: https://chapchapsnacks.ca/

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We are proud to be one of Canada Starts grant winners! We would like to thank all the companies that made it possible. We are planning to officially start our activities in February 2021. Stay posted!

Hynek Professional Consulting

Blessing Okenini, CEO & Founder

At Hynek Consulting, we strive to be an exceptional education service consulting company that provides unique and customized services to individuals seamlessly. They speak. We listen. To offer quality, smart, innovative and cost-effective education services and strategic solutions in an efficient and timely manner. To assist our clients to achieve their education goals and meet their needs without a significant rise above their original budget.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

As a young boy growing up in Nigeria, I was always fascinated by the world around me. In particular, I sought to understand the intersections of different people and languages, cultures and traditions, politics and the economy. My father was a journalist so he encouraged me to be a voracious reader. He used to task me with reading newspapers to him to make sure I was aware of the political, economic and social environment in Nigeria and beyond. It was during those formative years that I realized the importance of commerce, trade, and business. I decided at an early age, that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and a corporate leader and be an active participant in shaping the rapidly changing global economy. Africa is a land of innovation. This is a function not only of creative minds but of necessity. I have been a witness to business innovation and entrepreneurial spirit my entire life without being fully aware of what I was seeing. As a trained economist, I am accustomed to using historical information and data to create models to provide strategic business insight for companies. I have lived and study in Italy, Germany, the U.S and Canada and my experience meeting and talking with other Nigerians in these countries are the same. Their stories are the same. The challenge of getting the right information about studying abroad, how difficult it was for them to know the right universities, the admission application periods and scholarships available. They all agreed it was a daunting task and complex processes to go through. I completely agree with them because I went through a similar experience.

Looking for ways to solve this complex process, is where I began my entrepreneurial journey. I knew there must be a better and efficient way to solve this challenge and I decided to do an experiment. I decided to apply to multiple schools and I discovered I was able to get a 90% success rate. Overall, I have more than 11 admissions from various universities in Italy, Germany, the U.S and Canada and lately a Ph.D. in Applied Leadership in Monarch Business School. These incredible result proved to me that I have actually mastered what universities are looking for in admission applications and I decided that should start a company to help students who are having challenges to get admissions to study abroad. This is how Hynek Professional Consulting one established. In addition, to the fact that Nigerians are very ambitious people and always strive to excel in all their endeavours and it is every Nigerian family dreams to send their kids abroad to get a quality education. All these factors were what led me to found Hynek Consulting. As an economist, we follow where ever the data leads

Give us some background on your business.

The interconnectivity of our world has made living, work and study abroad opportunities flourish. As we cross borders and experience the wonders that travel offers, the novelty and excitement are often punctuated with challenges and the complexity of new systems, processes and differing cultural norms. The ideal scenario is to have a friend or family member to point you in the right direction or to lend a helping hand. All too often, this is not the reality for many who strike out to explore new opportunities. 60% of people who want to pursue their professional career abroad, relocate to join their family or pursue their educational dreams are faced with the complex process such as making the application, getting their Degree and transcript ready and writing a compelling personal statement. Due to globalization, the movement of people from one country to another has become a necessity and less optional and people are increasingly facing the challenges of going through the process to meet their immigration need in an easy, fast and cost-effective way.

To meet up these challenges and proffer strategic and personalize the solution to the needs of clients, Hynek Professional Consulting was established as a dynamic consulting company established to be a bridge between customers’ needs and meeting them. Whether it is their educational, immigration or relocation services, Hynek Consulting is a one-spot-shop that focuses on providing unique professional and excellent services; delivering a strategic and highly customized solution to our clients. We know the exceptional challenges of moving to a new country and we are here to help you facilitate a seamless transition. At Hynek Professional Consulting, we are dedicated to delivering world-class and professional, cost-effective and highly customized solutions to our clients with the collaboration of our partners in the various services discharging their exceptional wealth of experience through dedicated and committed employees working to satisfy and improve clients experience.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest inspiration is how to solve complex challenges that are preventing people from achieving their dreams. It gives me joy and fulfillment to see that and help people are able to achieve seamlessly. This is why I do what I do and what inspired me to start Hynek Consulting

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

We will be using this grant to do the following: Pay-by-the-hour Renting Office space (when and if necessary and safe), Website, Phone Call bills, Printer, Office Supplies, Logistics / Travelling (20% travelling), Marketing – Facebook, YouTube and Google Ads

Where can we learn more about your business?

We just open our LinkedIn profile. In the coming weeks, we will be getting ready to launch our website and other social media handles. This grant will undoubtedly help us achieve this in a timely manner

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Our future plan is to expand our service and become a registered agent / official centre in Nigeria where the Canada English Language test- CELPIP can be taken similar to the IELTS. It is our opinion that it just makes business sense for people coming to Canada to take the Canada version of the English language test- CELPIP instead of taking the British IELST and it is our plan to make an argument in this regard because we believe that it is the right thing to do for Canad and Canada strategic business interest.

Ontario Post-Secondary Esports

James Fitzgerald, League Commissioner

Ontario Post-Secondary Esports is a volunteer and student operated organization focused on integrating collegiate esports into the traditional post-secondary institution athletics system. OPSE provides schools with new ways to engage with their students, alumni, and local community. Our organization values student development through academics, industry experience, and competition . From competition to career development, OPSE creates opportunities for students to discover their potential, show off their skills, and represent their school at the highest level of collegiate esports.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

My own entrepreneurial journey can be traced back to attending Carleton University where I founded Tespa Carleton (the university esports club) with Robert Oles in 2016. We grew that program over the years to be the #1 ranked Tespa Chapter in North America (2018-2019) with an executive team of 40+ members, 14 competitive programs, 20+ active gaming communities, 100+ competitive players, and 2000+ student members. It was almost like operating a video game athletics department. My own career as a player and manager continued as I traveled representing Carleton and Canada to international events such as the World University Cyber Games in China, the International Esports Festival in Korea, and ESPN’s Collegiate Esports Championship in the USA. Nearing graduation in 2019, we realized that the organization was too large to be continually sustainable as a student operated organization. We opened talks with school administration about the future of esports and started looking at transitioning parts of the model into athletics. During this process, I graduated but remained as an Alumni Advisor while continuing my semi-professional completive esports career and working as an independent contractor consulting for different esports and event organizations. When March 2020 rolled around, we realized during one of our meetings with Carleton Athletics that the likelihood of sports returning in Fall was 0 and Winter was slim. Due to this, there was an opportunity to pivot resources into esports. With no way to compete in sports with rival schools, we investigated an alternative method to have the matches the students and alumni looked forward to every year. When we realized no one had a league that suited for official support by schools across the providence, we came to the conclusion that we could just built it ourselves. With the support of all the collegiate esports experts across the province and knew we could build the foundation needed for year over year success of esports in Ontario.

Give us some background on your business.

Ontario Post-Secondary Esports is the first ever collegiate esports league in Ontario. In our inaugural season, we are running seasons for 4 titles: Hearthstone, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League. We work directly with schools across the province to create a permanent collegiate esports ecosystem in Ontario that thrives at each post-secondary institution’s athletics department. With the exponential growth of the global esports industry, OPSE allows for schools to engage their student body, alumni, and local community through esports and gaming. Aside from competing, OPSE provides opportunities to students across Ontario who are interested in career in esports to use their skills and talents to gain experience and a chance to learn new things.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur really comes from south of the boarder. Seeing what our American counterparts are able to accomplish in the esports space made us ask – “Why is no one doing this in Canada?”. I believe we can develop the esports ecosystem in Canada to be even better than what they are building in the USA.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

We are looking forwards to being able to finally approach what we need to do to become an official business in Ontario. Investing personal funds into a business without incoming revenue is a daunting task. The Canada Starts grant allows us to approach registration, legal, and marketing costs with a level of security we did not have before. Now we can focus on building the best product possible!

Where can we learn more about your business?

Website: https://opsesports.ca
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 647 338-7710
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TeamOPSE
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/teamopse/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/opsesports/
Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/opsesports

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We are extremely excited to continue our season to crown the first ever Ontario Provincial Champion! You can catch the action live on our Twitch channel 4 days a week. Playoffs start this February.

Nuances Self-Care

Keisha Lamptey, Co-Founder

Nuances Self-Care manufactures handmade natural, vegan beauty products for black men and women. Our products are packaged in glass and paper packaging and sold through our e-commerce website at affordable prices. We want to inspire our clients to take care of their skin and hair while minimizing their costs.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

When I was looking for beauty products for myself, I felt very underrepresented. It seemed like many products were sold by stores that were not black owned and didn’t understand my needs. I wanted to find a natural alternative to the mass-market products that have damaged my hair and skin in the past. When I was searching for these alternatives, they were often too expensive since they were mostly in the United States. So, I started doing research back in 2017 to create my own natural products and began experimenting.

Give us some background on your business.

The goal of this business is to cater to all black skin and hair types with high-quality, inclusive products that will help black people to take care of their skin and hair in a natural way. My background in organic chemistry and marketing made it possible for me to bring this dream to life.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest inspiration is Madam C. J. Walker as she became the first black self-made millionaire from her homemade black hair product business. Her story reminds me that no dream is too small and that I could help many people with Nuances self-care.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Starting this business would allow me to shift the paradigm of the black beauty industry. This grant will help me to broaden my reach on social media platforms and launch a national campaign to empower the Black Canadian community.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Website: https://nuancesselfcare.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nuancesselfcare/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nuancesselfcare/

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’d like to eventually expand to all of North America, but our primary focus is Canada for the moment.

Serene

Amr Al-Refae, Co-Founder & Head of Engineering and Mohamed Al-Refae, Co-Founder & Head of Product

Serene is a mental wellness app that can be used by anyone to help improve their awareness of their own emotions and reduce stress. It integrates evidence-based practices used from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and other cognitive behavioural practices. It also incorporates self-compassion practices and journaling techniques used for tracking one’s mood and progress. Additionally, it incorporates a cognitive restructuring task that helps individuals address their problems through active coping techniques.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Amr: I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship, ever since I started my own graphic design business in grade 10. Funnily enough, my aspiration as a 14-15 year old at the time was to simply be able to make enough money from skills I have developed over my younger years (specifically digital graphic design) to buy an iPod Touch. After failing to do that (didn’t make any money the first year of business), I, however, realized my passion for entrepreneurship and how much I loved creating products and services that helped provide value in people’s lives. My later years as I grew up were spent learning the necessary technical skills to build ever more complex solutions and products that helps improve people’s lives. Those skills would essentially be the driving force behind us building Serene and the main reason we were able to do so much in very little time, without needing too much external help. Specifically, I was able to learn how to code and develop mobile apps and design them as well. These very necessary skills was how we developed the initial version of the app. We were able to test the effectiveness of the app in an ethically approved study at the University of Toronto (where we both are currently students/alumni).

Mohamed: My journey into entrepreneurship took a more unusual path compared to Amr. I was never really interested or dismissive of starting my own business or pursuing entrepreneurial endeavours. You could say I was fairly neutral about the subject until I started my bachelors, where I started a university club (U of T’s Mental Health Fundraising Group – MHFG) to help raise awareness about individuals dealing with mental health issues and difficulties. We were able to partner with a non-profit organization in order to help raise funds and donations for the awareness and the cause. After having had that experience in leadership and directing the efforts of the group, I felt that perhaps something could be done in the future where we can integrate my knowledge and expertise in psychology and mental wellness and provide practical interventions for people that deal with mental health difficulties everywhere. More recently during my masters degree, I developed a keen research interest in mindfulness and self-compassion practices. I was able to integrate a lot of my research and knowledge from courses into the conceptualization of Serene.   Serene was the culmination of that effort and we both worked really hard together to be able to provide value and help people become more mentally and physically well. 

Give us some background on your business.

Serene is a mobile-based application that incorporates techniques from established, evidence-based psychological therapies to help people experiencing mental health difficulties. The app incorporates mindfulness meditations (both formal and informal) and a cognitive restructuring task (which requires the development of an action plan to address challenging situations in life – e.g. someone may be experiencing high levels of job-related stress during COVID-19). The app further includes a journaling section for tracking one’s mood and progress throughout their use of the app. Serene also includes music and nature sounds as an informal meditative method that has been proven to be effective in populations experiencing distress and trauma. A learning module was also included to provide recommendations on how to effectively use each section based on scientific evidence.  We have tested this app at the University of Toronto as part of a research study and the evidence shows that the app significantly reduces stress and symptoms of depression and increases self-compassion and mindfulness levels.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

We both feel that our biggest inspiration is ultimately being able to help affect change on people in a positive manner. If we can help as much people as we possibly can in a holistic and positive way, we can help provide practical value that can in turn help improve society as a whole. We also draw inspiration from the great entrepreneurs and visionaries of past and present including but not limited to Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

We’re looking forward to use the funding to help develop the app further. Specifically, we will be developing the core content (e.g. guided mindfulness meditations and nature soundscapes) as well as revamp the design of the prototype we originally built. We will be investing heavily in content and improving the product itself before dedicating a portion of the funds to launch a global marketing campaign on social media channels and the Apple App Store.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can visit our website, test our beta (currently operating publicly) or pre-order the app on the App Store. The links are provided below: 
Website: https://www.getserene.app
TestFlight Beta Test: https://testflight.apple.com/join/hpNwLAFq
App Store Pre-Order: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/serene-ai-powered-wellness/id1512561442

Note: We are offering a free one-year subscription for the app when it launches mid-February for people that have been affected financially by the pandemic and would like to try the app and improve their mental health and wellness. Please contact us through the website contact chat to let us know so we can provide you a promo code!

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We can’t thank Canada Starts enough for helping us launch our startup. We’re forever grateful for believing in us and giving us a chance to help and improve people’s lives and mental health. In the future, we hope to be able to expand the app nationally in Canada and then in the USA, UK and Australia by launching a marketing campaign to target these countries. We’re looking forward to kickstart our efforts in being able to help as much people as possible improve their mental well-being and health.

Connexa.ai

Maria Poonawala, Founder & CEO

Connexa helps businesses maintain a human connection with their customers through a customer service platform while using machine learning to deliver real-time insights. Connexa’s product is a B2B SaaS platform that has been built using the experiences of end-users (agents and customer service operators) which is reflected in our product design and usability.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

What started off as an experiment to see what I could accomplish if I brought together a group of young, intelligent, and ambitious women with different perspectives, has turned into one of the most meaningful experiences of my life! I am the Founder and CEO of Connexa.ai. Prior to making the jump into entrepreneurship, I was Director of Client Services at an artificial intelligence start-up called Wysdom.ai where I helped clients implement chatbot technologies and build their conversational AI roadmaps. In addition, I have extensive consulting experience with enterprise clients in supporting their implementations of customer service automation solutions and digital transformation programs during her time as Technology Consultant within EY’s Technology Advisory practice. I am extremely passionate about diversity and inclusion in tech, mentoring young women in STEM fields which led me to start Connexa.ai, as well as helping businesses improve their customer service operations.

Give us some background on your business.

Connexa wants to make it easy for businesses to connect with their customers and solve for challenges such as inconsistent customer experience across support channels, agents having to use multiple systems for chat, phone, social, and managers/business owners having disparate data sources and unable to derive voice of customer insights from their data. The value our customers would get from using Connexa’s platform: they would never miss a customer inquiry, increase their customer satisfaction and retention, improve their business by having a better understanding of sales channels and customer concerns through voice of the customer analytics.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest inspiration is my mom. My mom sacrificed a lot for me to be in this position. She was the first female civil engineer in her town in India, dropped her career goals to become a mom, moved to a foreign country where she knew no one, started fresh by going back to school and building a second career as a quality engineer, became a single mom, and the list goes on. She raised me to believe I could do anything and be anyone I want, which gave me the ambition and confidence to pursue entrepreneurship.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

This grant has allowed the Connexa team to obtain collaboration software to start building the foundation of the company, as well as sign up for platforms such as FLIK (weareflik.com) which is the best talent sourcing tool to connect with students that have so much potential and are eager to learn.

Where can we learn more about your business?

https://www.instagram.com/connexa.ai/
https://twitter.com/connexa_ai
https://www.linkedin.com/company/connexa-ai/about/
https://www.connexa.ai/

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Interested in our product? Sign up here for early access: https://bit.ly/3v2EiPD

Blanka

Adam Chuntz, CMO

blanka is an ecommerce marketplace that gives online store owners on-demand access to private-labeled products. blanka lets anyone start a brand by connecting them with suppliers, designing their own products, and selling products on their online store – all without holding any inventory.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

My background is in marketing strategy, design, development and creative direction. Having experienced the ins and outs of running my own web and design studio to working for blue chip clients within an agency to leading the overall brand and ecommerce development and strategy at BN3TH, I have had many multifaceted experiences in my career so far. At the core, though, I am an entrepreneur who thrives on creative solutions and that’s why I’m so excited about the launch of blanka!

Give us some background on your business.

As COVID-19 spread globally and began to impact our communities, our team started to wonder how we can see this as an opportunity to embrace the digital world. As people stayed indoors, whether they are working from home or exploring how to find new work, we saw a global shift to digital reliance – everything happened online. Our concept is called blanka, which is an ecommerce marketplace that lets anyone start a brand by connecting them with suppliers, designing their own products, and selling products on their online store – all without holding any inventory. Upon launch, Blanka will focus on products in the health and wellness space. This means that anyone – a student in Waterloo looking to create their online wellness brand, or a stay-at-home parent in Phoenix interested in generating additional income – can start a digital business with blanka.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I am inspired by the idea of building tools and leveraging technology to solve real problems. Particularly, I love that blanka is a software that automates a process that has traditionally been incredibly manual and onerous.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The Canada Starts grant has been instrumental in helping blanka launch. Since receiving the grant, here are a list of our team’s accomplishments: launched website: we launched our marketing website to begin promoting blanka’s software; launch Shopify app: we recently launched our Shopify app. While it’s not necessary for our merchants to have a Shopify store, for the merchant’s that do utilize Shopify, the blanka app is a way to further automate their processes; begin merchant onboarding: we have successfully begun to acquire customers.

Where can we learn more about your business?

http://www.blankabrand.com

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Our plans for 2021 are to continue to improve our software and onboard new merchants!


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