by Heidi Riley
Ten projects have been awarded $25,000 each from the 2019 Ignition Fund, which helps entrepreneurs seeking start-up capital for a new business venture.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy of PEI,” says Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Minister Matthew MacKay. “My department provides supports to many Island businesses through grants, loans, and advice.
“As a former entrepreneur, I recognize how important it is to receive this support. I grew up in a fishing family, and my parents ran an aquaculture business. We grew our own mussels and sold them to markets throughout the province. When I was 21 years old, I opened my own restaurant business and I owned a few other tourism businesses before I got into real estate development.
“Looking back, if it was not for people who helped me out with financial support, I would not have moved ahead. Some of the best ideas don’t see the light of day without financial support. The Ignition Fund is here to support those ideas to help entrepreneurs.”
“The winners were selected based on the strength of their business plan, and how their idea aligns with our goals to grow exports and create new jobs for Islanders.”
Who is eligible for the Ignition Fund?
Entrepreneurs committed to establishing and operating a new business venture on PEI may apply. Existing businesses may also be eligible if they are launching a product or service that is new to their business. Projects go through a series of internal reviews, and the top 20 get to pitch their idea to a review panel. The panel rates the projects based on innovation, market potential, scalability and management.
The next call for proposals for the Ignition program will be in the spring of 2020. For more information about the Ignition Fund, contact Heather Rossiter, Business Development Officer, at 902-368-5125 or [email protected].pe.ca
2019 Ignition Fund winners
Lake Designs and Strategies
Chelsey Lake is a Computer Programmer who has lived on the Island for two years. She and her partner Michael Kogan created booking software that enables businesses to book appointments online in an affordable way.
“Companies generally come to us when they are experiencing a problem or if something is not working efficiently,” says Chelsey. “We have been beta testing this product with a number of companies on PEI, and it has been going wonderfully.
“Without the help of the Ignition Fund, we could not take the next step. Getting this support means being able to hire people and expand. The business has advanced, and I am so grateful for the help.”
For more about Lake Designs and Strategies, visit https://lakedesign.co/
Chow Time Pet Foods Inc.
Three current and former UPEI students and a loving dog owner have developed an all-natural nutrition- and flavour-enhancing sauce for dogs. “The four of us have always had family dogs, and a common issue is that we struggle to get our dogs to eat,” says Andrew Weeks.
“The idea started when my brother and I were eating dinner,” says Zach Montreuil, fourth-year business student at UPEI. “Our meal was full of sauces, and we gave my brother’s dog a meal of top quality kibble, but the dog just sniffed it and walked away. We felt there was a need for enhanced flavour and smells that could be added to dog food. We created a sauce that is nutritious, enhances flavour, and makes sure that picky dogs will like it – from puppy to elder.”
“Zack spent countless hours researching foods that enhance canine health, avoid obesity, gives them a shiny coat, and improves their muscle tone, among countless other benefits,” says Andrew. “We spoke with veterinarians, came up with a recipe, worked with BIO|FOOD|TECH to perfect it, and worked with a global ingredient company to make sure we were getting the best resources.
“The project is very close to coming together. We are still in the development phase and looking at things like shelf life testing, but we are hoping to start production by February, 2020.”
“We did testing with pilot consumers, and the dogs all loved the product,” says Evan Hawley, who graduated from UPEI in 2019. “However, dogs don’t shop. If they did, where would they keep their wallets? We need to convince the consumer, so we are creating a marketing strategy to reach our audience and appeal to them. We are putting our customers first and listening to their every need.”
Evan has been involved in marketing other start-up companies. “I see potential with Chow Time. We have incredible strategies planned, all built around the wholesome beginnings of when Zach and Sasha came up with the idea of a genuinely enjoyable meal for Sacha’s dog.
“The Ignition funding will help us pay for equipment, legal fees, costs of goods sold, licensing, research, and development. We have teamed up with experts in every field to make sure the product enters the market at the right time and is safe for all dogs.”
For more information about Chow Time, email [email protected].com. The team anticipates that their digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and a home website will be online soon.
Camp Awesome is a curriculum-based series of educational books, teaching resources and interactive tools designed for early years school-aged children that can be used by families and teachers.
The three collaborators all have other jobs. Sarah, the author of the stories, is a Grade 2 teacher. Gavin sells Real Estate, and Sean, the illustrator and creative partner, is a Graphic Designer.
“Gavin and I have three kids, and we love reading books to them,” says Sarah. “We have already developed books, and are working on interactive tools such as apps and educational video games.
“The stories are based loosely around our kids and going to camp as kids ourselves,” says Gavin. “We self-published our first book last year, and now the second book is written and is being illustrated.
“The Ignition Fund will help us with marketing, and it will let us move forward in our plans, and prioritize some things that were put on the back burner.”
For more information about Camp Awesome, visit www.facebook.com/campawesome.ca
Van Kampen’s Greenhouses
Mike Cassidy, who worked at the UPEI School of Business for 25 years, owns T3 Transit, Maritime Bus, Coach Atlantic, Vankampens Greenhouses, and other businesses. He is collaborating with engineers at UPEI to produce an extract from sea lettuce which encourages plant growth.
“For years, sea lettuce growing in PEI rivers has been a problem,” says Mike. “It blocks light and oxygen, and kills fish and water plant life. It is also rather smelly at certain times of the year. I was looking for a way to solve this environmental problem.
“In 2011, I bought a harvester to take the sea lettuce out of the water, but the best product I could develop from the sea lettuce did not command a value large enough to support the operation.”
The idea was put on hold until 2018, when the UPEI Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering got involved. Dr. Bishnu Acharya looked at the introductory research, and found that sea lettuce is a good plant growth stimulant. This past summer, he realized that the extract could benefit human health as well.
Dr. Acharya and his graduate students are working on an extraction process for sea lettuce using pressure, temperature and time to produce a consistent final product. Mike is also interested in making an extract of haskap berries, which are high in antioxidants, and could be made into another natural health product.
“We are reaching out to BIO|FOOD|TECH and other labs to test the product, and we are also building our own capacity to analyze the products,” says Dr. Acharya. “The Engineering component is to perfect the extraction process, and then much more collaborative work will be done. I have expertise in mechanical, chemical, and bio engineering, and all that knowledge is needed for this project.”
Ankita Shrestha is a Masters student with the Faculty of Sustainable Design Engineering. “I have designed a reactor for the extraction process. We collected the sea lettuce, put it in the reactor, and got solid and liquid extracts.”
Mike says they have experimented with this product on tomatoes at Van Kampens, and are doing ongoing research on its effect on haskap berries as well. They have also collaborated with Dr. Lord Abbey in the Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences at Dalhousie University.
They are working on a third project using woodchips to make an additive for diesel fuel. Mike says such an additive could be very beneficial to any business using fuel – including his buses and greenhouses. “I would love to have a product that does not depend on fossil fuels.”
“The Ignition funding will help us scale up our extraction process,” says Dr. Acharya. “We want to be doing extraction at a much higher level, and then we can do large-scale field testing and evaluation, distribute the product to other growers, and get their feedback.”
Other 2019 Ignition Fund recipients
Au Naturel Solutions, Simmone Cormier: Development and manufacture of alternative all-natural health products
Common Man Seafood & Microcannery, John and Jordan McIntyre: process and export premium smoked PEI oysters.
Scout, Adam Bent: Craft cannery and purveyors of sustainable seafood.
Innovation for Lawyers Inc., Jacinta Gallant: Offering resources, training and innovative tools for lawyers working in collaborative family law practice.
TopFeed Industries, Vaughn Murphy: An online platform for small-scale food producers who run food subscriptions such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
An Animal Health Company for the Enhanced Management of Livestock: Daniel Hurnik, Scott Dingwell, and Curtis Littlejohn: A veterinary device to manage pigs on farms.