Province supports program to help local entrepreneurs get their start

By Troy Gillard (Twitter: @Troy_Gillard)
July 14, 2017 - 11:15am Updated: July 15, 2017 - 8:07am

The Red Deer Downtown Business Association will expand its Catapult Entrepreneurs incubator thanks to $600,000 in funding from the Alberta Entrepreneurship Incubator Program.

The incubator will provide business mentorship opportunities, access to startup funding and product commercialization services.  

“We’re excited to take leadership in sparking economic growth in Red Deer and across the region, and look forward to working in partnership with key economic development stakeholders in Central Alberta,” said Amanda Gould, Executive Director for the Red Deer Downtown Business Association. “This innovative project comes at just the right time, and Central Alberta is ready and well positioned for significant business growth.”

The project launched in Red Deer on April 1 and additional incubation satellite sites are currently being established in Drayton Valley, Rocky Mountain House, Stettler, Ponoka and Olds.

“We can manage 10 in-house entrepreneurs in our Red Deer location, and maybe about 10 other program entrepreneurs because there’s only two staff,” explained Danielle Klooster with Catapult Entrepreneurs. “There will be a local person at each of the satellite sites to help support the entrepreneurs there.”

Klooster says it will be up to each of the satellite sites to determine exactly how many entrepreneurs they wish to help.

“Our hope is by the end of our two year time, for this initial wave of funding, that we see over 50 entrepreneurs go through the program,” she added.

Klooster says they have yet to advertise the program but have already received 20 applications – eight of which have already been approved.

Mark Cherkowski with Promark Business Solutions says the program has provided him with some much needed support.

“As I started out on my own, as an entrepreneur, I knew how to do some stuff and kind of muddled my way through,” he admitted. “But I’m getting to the point now where I have my systems and am realizing that there’s some gaps in my knowledge and abilities to really push my business to the next level, get some more employees and reach out past Red Deer. So I heard about the mentoring and stuff that these guys offer and I thought it was a great opportunity to try it and see if it can help me out.”

Klooster noted their focus is on the business development side of starting a new venture.

“[Entrepreneurs] can do all the work on their product or service development and fail because they don’t know how to operate a business. We really want to give them those lifetime foundational business skills so that no matter what business they ever start, they should be able to take the business skills they have and plug into whatever idea they have,” she explained.

Cherkowski added, “It’s giving me, I’m hoping, some tools to figure out what I need to build on and who I need to hire to take that next step instead of trying to do everything myself – which is something a lot of small businesses get stuck doing.”

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