Meet the 2022 SMARTstart entrepreneurs

Our 2022 program is made up of 10 entrepreneurs representing nine businesses who are participating in workshops, online training and one-on-one mentorship with the goal to complete a business, feasibility or strategic plan.

We can’t wait to see where their enthusiasm and hard work will take them by the end of our eight months together! Let’s meet our first five entrepreneurs:

Business and life partners Courtney and Jaret Steranko own Bonfire Shades – a company with great energy and style offering full UV protective sunglasses with bamboo arms, a lightweight feel and polarized lenses. The couple currently sells seven different styles (and MANY different colours) via their online store and in-person at local markets. They aim to expand sales to local stores, and across Canada. Helping them navigate the program and develop a business plan is mentor Kari Lines of Budget Blinds of Airdrie.

While Emalyn Plazo isn’t new to business in Airdrie, she hopes her bubble tea shop with a twist is a fresh idea residents will flock to. Cheng’s Bubbler offers bubble teas and smoothies made with fresh fruit, and sweet treats such as croffles, which are a marriage between a croissant and a waffle iron. She opened her first shop in Crossfield this winter and hopes to expand to a second shop in Airdrie within one year. Emalyn is matched with mentor Gary Armstrong of Empowered Employee Education.

The pandemic provided an opportunity for Jessica Abramyk to work towards her lifelong goal of starting her own business. Jesa Travel agency focuses on travel that gives back – she matches travellers with their ideal vacation while ensuring that the Travel Operators she works with embrace responsible and regenerative tourism practices. Through the program she aims to perfect her customer journey to ensure travellers have an incredible experience from start to finish. Helping Jessica out is mentor Ankur Goklaney of La Capitale Financial Security.

Chelsea Dunlop is excited to pair her drive to help others with her love of sharing minimalism in her new venture, Ecology of Ease. Using a minimalism mindset, she will help clients reevaluate the contents and functionality of their home with a goal to save them time and money. She will know she has been successful when people with overwhelm are able to live an easier life. Jennifer Benner of Benner Database Designs will be helping Chelsea through the process to take her idea and turn it into a reality.