Breathing life into startups: Toronto’s Starter Company offers funding and an entrepreneurial crash course

ss_puzzle_112214768_jpgAdam Paulin had almost everything – a sound concept for his wearable weight-loss technology Thin Ice, a background in neuroscience and psychology, and an intimate knowledge of the personal fitness industry.

But the missing element to launching his business was perhaps the most vital one – the $15,000 prototype to woo investors and let customers touch and feel the product he had envisioned.

“I had a strong business plan but I didn’t have the finances to get a prototype made,” explains Paulin. “The concept was hard to explain to other people without something more concrete.”

That is until he tapped into Enterprise Toronto’s Starter Company program, an entrepreneurial crash course geared towards young people 18 to 29 looking to launch a business. The City of Toronto’s entrepreneurship program couples in-house small business advisors, business plan sculpting and bespoke mentoring with an opportunity to apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to start or grow a business.

“I feel like that initial grant money and advice was what was able to get me over that hump that every entrepreneur faces,” he says.

Paulin is one of myriad businesses – from a fashionpreneur launching her spin on Siberian footwear Love Winter, to three digital gurus looking to get their marketing firm Social Buzz off the ground – that have built their startup’s foundations and fine-tuned their entrepreneurial aptitude throughout their time in the six-month program. The tailored training and insight from successful local entrepreneurs helps provide relevant, executable advice.

“We were good on the service side, we’d built our skills in social media and advertising, we understood the graphics industries but in terms of growing a business, it was just an idea,” recalls Parminder Sarna, co-founder of Social Buzz and past participant of the program. “When we came into the Starter Company program, we actually turned our idea into a business that could make money.”

With small businesses representing 98.2 per cent of all businesses in Canada, the program builds on Toronto’s reputation as a world-class city for entrepreneurs.

“Toronto is a microcosm of entrepreneurial talent, there’s so much going on here,” says Chris Rickett, ‎manager of entrepreneurship services at the City of Toronto. “Starter Company is about connecting those dots – through mentorship, through funding, through advice – and strengthening the underlying fabric of the small business economy in the city.”

That same entrepreneurial talent will be on hand for the City of Toronto’s annual Small Business Forum on Thursday, October 15, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. In addition to a tradeshow offering a range of opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners – including an information booth on Starter Company – there will be keynote presentations on everything from crowdfunding to adapting to a digital world.

“This is where the next generation of entrepreneurs connect,” says Rickett.

Get  information about Enterprise Toronto’s Starter Company program.

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