13 local entrepreneurs kick-off training program

AIRDRIE, ALBERTA – The 2024 SMARTstart entrepreneurial training program officially started on Wednesday, Feb. 28 with a dynamic group of local entrepreneurs working to launch or expand their businesses.

“There is a huge learning curve that comes with starting a business and this program helps participants build strong entrepreneurial skills, ultimately establishing successful businesses,” says Jessica Williamson, SMARTstart Entrepreneur Coordinator and Organizing Committee Member. “Support is imperative, as one third of new businesses in Canada do not survive their first five years.”

The 13 entrepreneurs in this year’s program make up the 11th cohort of SMARTstart participants. The launch event was held on Feb. 28, at Atlas Brewing, where participants and mentors were introduced through a “speed connecting” session to help them get to know each other.

Launching in 2014, SMARTstart has assisted 144 local entrepreneurs with their new business or business ideas. As a result, 26 new businesses have opened their doors and 36 businesses have expanded their operations or services.

Over the course of eight months, the entrepreneurs will complete the 100 Essential Business Skills online training from GoForth Institute, participate in workshops and work with a mentor on the completion of a business, feasibility or strategic plan.

The mentorship group is made up of volunteers from the Airdrie business community whose background and knowledge is a key part of the experience for entrepreneurs.

“We are so fortunate to have a group of over 30 mentors that are eager to share their wisdom, experience and guidance within the SMARTstart program. This level of commitment and passion demonstrates the exceptionally close-knit business community in Airdrie,” says Laurie Kubik, SMARTstart Mentor Coordinator and Organizing Committee Member. “We are also grateful to the many businesses that support the program with generous sponsorships and donations. It truly takes a village!”

The program is made possible with support from the following sponsors:

  • Seminar Sponsors: BDC, MNP
  • Media Sponsors: Air 106.1 / Discover Airdrie, Airdrie City View, airdrielife
  • Encore Sponsor: Beckie Ryan
  • Sponsored Sessions: iEvolve Media
  • Entrepreneur Sponsors: Blessingways Family Wellness, NWEL Holdings Ltd. (Sid Van der Meer)

SMARTstart is an award-winning program developed by Airdrie Entrepreneur Common (AEC), a non-profit society providing resources, training and mentorship to support the start-up and growth needs of Airdrie small businesses. Locally, the program is delivered by City of Airdrie Economic Development and Community Futures Centre West (CFCWest). Since 2019, CFCWest has expanded this made-in-Airdrie program to 10 other Alberta communities, which is currently running in seven, including Canmore, Grande Prairie, Hinton/Edson, Lakeland, Leduc/Wetaskiwin, Red Deer and Okotoks.

In 2022, AEC also launched two new entrepreneur support programs: Discover and AdvanceSMART. Discover assists entrepreneurs to test new business ideas, products or services; and AdvanceSMART is a mentorship program for Airdrie businesses experiencing high growth. To learn more about Discover, SMARTstart and AdvanceSMART, visit www.airdriecommon.ca.

2024 SMARTstart participants:

Entrepreneurs with an idea:

  • Kristy Ecklin, Cursed Doll Cult
  • Trina, Mobile Laser Cleaning Service
  • Caira Haynes, Holistic Health Coach
  • Ian Irvine, Twin Oaks Telehealth Services Inc.
  • Ellen Wolfe, My Yoga Room Elements

New business owners (in operation less than three years):

  • Allissa Blondin, The Feathered Pen
  • Mitch Colp, Hexagon Psychology
  • Yvonne Koprnicky, Sundog Studios
  • Sharity Mackintosh, Honeybee Housekeeping
  • Pamela McLeod, Vintage Apothecary Inc.
  • Lalit Mohan, Continent Constructions Ltd.
  • Chelsie Schmidt, Chelsie Rae Photography
  • Lesley Stasiuk, Daytona Beach Seafood Tacos

2024 SMARTstart mentors:

  • Melanie Beingessner, Blessingways Family Wellness
  • Jennifer Benner, Benner Database Designs
  • Shelley Bitz, Bank of Montreal
  • Tia Callaway, Sonic Coaching
  • Ankur Goklaney, La Capitale Financial Security
  • Tracy Goodbrand, Irricana Kountry Kennel
  • Heather Harke, former owner of Shoplift Deals Limited
  • Kari Lines, Budget Blinds of Airdrie
  • Gary Manocha, Condor Integrity CPA
  • Dawnie McElligott, At Dawn Wellness
  • Kelly Paisley, The I.T. Company
  • Brent Park, Liquid Amber Landscape Management
  • Tara Pickford, Ambition Performing Arts
  • Michelle Tennant, LochSmith Consulting
  • Joan Traub, former owner of Airdrie Yoga Studio
  • Steve Walker-Duncan, Red Deer Polytechnic
  • Jo-Anne Yau, Miles Davison LLP