Original Published on Nov 16, 2022 at 22:34
By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Science enthusiasts are welcome to visit The Boreal Museum on Victoria Avenue to grow their own germ kits or mingle with the resident dinosaur on site.
Museum owner, Jason Feller, is one of 12 entrepreneurs who have successfully completed the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) Starter Company Plus program, bringing the year total to 19 entrepreneurs who will benefit from the initiative.
Business owners participated in all the required workshops, training and mentorship criteria to learn how to run a business and receive a $5,000 grant.
“It was really fantastic,” said Feller, of the Starter Company Plus program.
“They kind of covered all sorts of topics . . . and we did webinars about all of the different aspects of business plans and growing your business. They had a lot of different speakers come in and then they help you write a business plan, which is really helpful for startup businesses or first-time entrepreneurs, such as me. It was a great amount of help for growing my business and my brand.”
Feller will use his grant money for presentation equipment as he begins to expand into the community.
Kirsten Kabernick, program co-ordinator with the Starter Company Plus Program, says they are seeing a large intake in the program.
“We’re seeing a lot of applications,” she said. “There is a need and a demand for extra supports. A lot of people come out of it saying, ‘the ($5,000 grant) money was great, but the training and the mentorship that I got through the program is really going to help me be sustainable long term.’ And that’s really what we’re looking to achieve with this program.”
She added that being available to entrepreneurs as an access point when they’re starting out or expanding is really playing a pivotal role in their long-term success.
Since September 2021, Rami El Mawed, owner of Al Dar Immigration Services Inc., has been providing a service for immigrants arriving in Thunder Bay and has also completed the starter program earning the $5,000 grant.
“When I came across the program through the CEDC newsletter I was very interested, especially since it focuses on working on your business plan and getting it reviewed,” he said. “It also provided some tips from others if they think my business would be successful or not.”
El Mawed was prepared with a draft business plan and said the program was a good opportunity just to “push” him to finalize it. He will use the grant money to purchase needed office equipment.
Jamie Baratta and his brother Dillon are co-owners of the Westfort Nortenos Taqueria Mexican street food restaurant and have taken on a third partner, Keith Buna, to purchase the former Apollo Bar to transform it into their second location.
Jamie has almost completed the Start-Up Plus program and will earn the grant money which he says will be used for the renovation of the Red River Road location.
“I haven’t finished the mentorship program yet and I’m actually really looking forward to that because there’s a lot I can learn as a business owner like the financial advice and the planning and some of the bookkeeping that I’m not very good at,” Baratta said.
Among the successful entrepreneurs in this last cohort are nine startups and three expansion projects. They include; Al Dar Immigration Services Inc., AMMA Connect Inc., Bloom and Branch HR Consulting, June & Jo Spice Co., Lewk Clothing, Muggs Coffeehouse, Nortenos Taqueria, Sound Hearing Inc., The Boreal Museum, Umbrella Medical Clinic Inc., Wildflower Studio and Xoxo Photography.
The program is supported by the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade and is led locally by the CEDC Thunder Bay and District Entrepreneur Centre.