Starting a new business? You can’t do it alone.
“It takes a community to build a business.”
Barrie’s entrepreneurship, startup and small business community is thriving and one of the biggest reasons is that the city’s entrepreneurial leaders are committed to building it. They meet regularly and collaborate to nurture entrepreneurs in all aspects of business growth, from business skills building to mentorship, to financing opportunities.
Throughout this area community-building events are planned to inspire, educate and connect new entrepreneurs with like-minded people and community resources. These leaders are sharing their experiences and challenges to help entrepreneurs launch and build sustainable businesses. Because, you can’t do it alone.
Chad Ballantyne understands this premise well; it is the foundation upon which The Creative Space (TCS) was built. TCS is a Downtown Barrie coworking environment that “gives freelancers, startups and micro-businesses the opportunity to work, collaborate and grow in a creative community focused atmosphere”. They offer countless opportunities for networking and invaluable business support.
Knowing you can’t do it alone is also why in 2015 he launched smOffice, a competition created to give one lucky entrepreneur a successful start. Six months of office space and access to an impressive list of mentors and support, plus a great list of additional benefits.
In talking to smOffice 2015 winner, Shelby Taylor of Earth to Kids, it’s easy to understand why a supportive business community is so vital to entrepreneurial success.
Her story is a marketing dream. She’s passionate, has developed a solid product and did serious background work to put her plan in motion. Her launch product, Chickapea is a locally-made, organic, gluten-free pasta made from chickpeas, it’s high in protein, fibre and iron, and free of added sugar, preservatives and anything artificial. It’s made in a gluten-free, nut-free facility and cooks in just three minutes. Chickpeas are heralded for being a super food and Shelby has developed a process to turn this healthy legume into a nutritious pasta the entire family will enjoy.
It’s been said that it “takes a community to build a business.” What do you think of that statement?
Shelby: Oh, I think that is a fair statement. I hate to say that I would have given up by now without the support around me, but it’s hard to think that I would have gotten this far without the support.
For example, I entered a pitch competition at Georgian College through the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre. This was in February 2015 and it was an opportunity to get my idea across to a panel of experts, who in turn offered advice. That’s all I was looking for, and I had nothing to lose. [Shelby was able to enter this competition without being an enrolled student at Georgian College. The Entrepreneurship Centre is open to everyone.]
It just so happened that one person on the panel was very interested in my idea, Sandy Robertson, the founder of the Georgian Angel Network. I started working with him the next day and we have been working together ever since. He is a founding investor and has now taken on the role of CFO.
I was also assigned a mentor, Ron Newman, through the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre who referred me to the smOffice competition, which I was super fortunate to win. Once I was involved with that there were so many people to work with, including Chad Ballantyne, Invest Barrie, ventureLab, Craig Busch, President and CEO for Busch Group of Companies, Chris Adams, Co-Founder and CTO for gShift Labs, Stephen Jones, Director, National Business Development and Consumer Insolvency for BDO Canada, as well as many others. smOffice was a great opportunity to connect and to get my business idea out there. And more than anything I just needed encouragement and support in moving forward.
Access to such a supportive business community provided Shelby with a wealth of resources from a widespread network of backgrounds and experience. Tapping into so many pools of knowledge greatly accelerates the entrepreneur’s chances for success. The support continues and she in turn will be sharing her experiences by providing mentorship to this year’s smOffice winner.
What is the best part about being a part of Barrie’s entrepreneur community?
Shelby: It can be pretty lonely starting something; you have those “what am I doing?” days. It feels really great to have a supportive network that is constantly there for you. You simply cannot do anything without some sort of support.
Read more about Shelby Taylor and the story behind Chickapea Pasta here.
Jane KlementtiJane is Editor-in-Chief and writer for Sunday Crush.
She lives in Barrie, ON