Every day at Innovation Guelph (IG), diverse groups of enterprising people – from novice founders of startups to veteran CEOs and serial entrepreneurs – meet amid the high ceilings and exposed beams of the historic Granary Building to find new ways to move businesses forward.
Since its inception in 2011, IG has become a springboard for entrepreneurism, prosperity and community building in Guelph, located in the heart of Ontario’s innovation corridor stretching from Toronto to Kitchener Waterloo.
The support IG provides is a lifeline for many entrepreneurs facing the daunting challenges of starting or growing a company.
“Most entrepreneurs are working so hard in the business they don’t have time to step back and look at big picture,” says mentor Steve Barrett, who specializes in guiding early-stage technology companies. “We see people who are working 100 hours a week; they can’t take vacation. While they may have had some early success or sustained success in a niche, they don’t know what to do next and it’s scary.
“They need someone in their court who they can rely on, who they can confide in, who they can trust. It’s important to reach out, to have a sounding board, in order to step up and take risks.”
The difference IG can make in an entrepreneur’s journey comes from “an exceptional team of mentors, industry specialists and staff members dedicated to helping local startups and SMEs achieve their business goals and overcome barriers to growth,” says Executive Director Anne Toner Fung.
“The coaching and networking made available through IG’s programs, workshops and courses help our clients tackle strategic and operational challenges; maximize value from existing markets and find new opportunities; commercialize new technologies, create jobs and enhance the quality of life in our region.”
HELPING COMPANIES START, THRIVE AND SUCCEED
IG’s suite of novel business acceleration programs has helped hundreds of clients and engaged many valued community partners including the City of Guelph, University of Guelph, Bioenterprise Corporation, the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, and neighbouring municipalities including the County of Wellington and Town of Minto. IG is also a portal to Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) resources. IG programs include:
Designed for entrepreneurs and high potential startups, Speedway provides mentoring, hands-on courses and workshops, networking opportunities and business analysis. Speedway is supported by the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth/ Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, through the Business Acceleration Program administered by MaRS.
Fast Lane provides up to $5,000 in services to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) identify roadblocks and develop novel strategies to overcome challenges to growth as they scale up. Fast Lane is supported by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).
Fuel Injection supports scale-up projects for startups and SMEs in the manufacturing, sustainable technology, agriculture/agri-food and social innovation sectors. The program, delivered in partnership with Bioenterprise, provides up to $30,000 in matching seed funding and specialized business advisory services. Fuel Injection is funded by the Government of Canada (FedDev Ontario).
The Rhyze Project
The Rhyze Project aims to raise the number of businesses owned by women in the region to 30 per cent by helping them build financial capital, business skills, peer networks and confidence — no matter their career path or experience.
“More and more women are starting their own businesses and creating jobs, but they still face barriers to success that their male counterparts don’t — particularly with respect to accessing capital and tapping into networks of peers who can provide practical advice and moral support,” says Kristel Manes, Director of the Rhyze Project, which is supported by The Ontario Trillium Foundation.
“It’s essential that we harness the energy of women entrepreneurs and provide the support they need because when we empower women, we build stronger, more prosperous communities.”
B Corp Bootcamp
IG’s B Corp Bootcamp teaches clients the basics of sustainable business practices and the ins-and-outs of B Corp certification. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. IG’s goal is to help make Guelph the B Corp capital of Canada.
A GREAT PLACE TO DO BUSINESS
Blessed with a diverse, highly skilled workforce and world-class education system, the Guelph region is home to some of Canada’s leading companies in key growth sectors. This includes the many innovators that make up IG’s client list — some of whom are profiled in this special supplement — in burgeoning industries such as food and beverage manufacturing, clean tech, agrifood innovation, advanced manufacturing, social innovation and information and communications technology.
With an eye to the future, IG also mentors the next generation of entrepreneurs through The Hub Incubator Program at the University of Guelph’s Centre for Business and Student Enterprise (CBaSE). The innovation bug is also catching at Guelph’s city hall, where IG is involved in the Civic Accelerator project that embeds private companies seeking to commercialize new technology aimed at solving complex civic challenges.
“What we offer is far from a one-size fits all approach,” says Kevin Boon, IG Client Services Manager. “Our mentors quickly zero in on a company’s unique circumstances and deliver advice and support to remove obstacles and realize opportunities. When more specialized help is needed – for example, in product development or financial analysis — we augment mentors’ services by tapping IG’s roster of highly qualified industry specialists for solutions to specific, hard-to-solve challenges.”
It’s no accident that Guelph now ranks among Canada’s most entrepreneurial cities, according to an October 2016 report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
That kind of recognition is validation that Guelph is on the right track, says Toner Fung.
She encourages entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes to connect with IG to explore opportunities to go to the next level in terms of business growth and development.
“It’s exciting to see the energy and enthusiasm our clients bring to the innovation ecosystem and we are proud to help them achieve their goals. It’s about building a prosperous future for all citizens in our region and beyond: when our clients succeed, our communities flourish.” Partners in prosperity: Innovation Guelph helps businesses grow and communities thrive.
www.innovationguelph.ca 519-265-4495 • firstname.lastname@example.org 111 Farquhar Street – 3rd Floor Guelph, ON N1H 3N4