Your future-self will thank you.
SMARTstart is a made-in-Airdrie entrepreneurial training program offering tools, mentorship and business planning. It is all about providing real-world business skills and access to the tailor-made advice you need to help set your business up for success. The program is for people with a business idea and owners who have been in business for less than three years.
SMARTstart has helped over 130 entrepreneurs since 2014
1/3 of new businesses do not survive their first 5 years*
Online learning via GoForth Institute
- 100 Essential Business Skills™ program
- 15 classes to complete on your own time
- Video lessons – plus downloadable summaries, quizzes and slides
- In-person/virtual small group sessions
- 11 sessions (1.5 hours each), alternating between lunch and evening sessions to accommodate work and personal schedules
- Topics include financing, marketing, taxation, networking and more
- Delivered by local experts
- Plus two to three fun Peer-to-Peer sessions where you share ideas with fellow participants and mentors in an informal setting
- Each entrepreneur is paired with an experienced local business owner (volunteer mentor)
- Mentors share their experiences and effective small business management practices
- Mentors provide guidance to entrepreneurs as they develop their plan
Applications to the program are accepted in the Fall of each year for the following year’s program. Each year there are up to 20 spots available. We wish everyone could join SMARTstart, but due to the popularity of the program, that’s just not the case.
Always be in the know about applications opening by adding your name and email address to our newsletter.
While you wait to hear about SMARTstart, we encourage you to start and grow your business, as well as take advantage of the other resources and services Airdrie Entrepreneur Common offers including business resources and one-on-one consultations.
Will customers love your business idea? Let’s discover!
Customer discovery is an essential first (and ongoing) step in creating a new product, service or business. We encourage idea-stage entrepreneurs to participate in our four-session Discover program prior to entering SMARTstart. You’ll better understand whether you have a business solution people love and are willing to pay for.
Build your plan
Having a plan is what SMARTstart is all about.
Each entrepreneur walks away from SMARTstart with a plan they have created to help set their business up for success.
- Entrepreneurs meet with a Business Advisor from Community Futures Centre West to set learning goals and determine what plan they will create
- One of three plan types is completed: a business plan, feasibility study or strategic plan
- Mentors and Program Coordinators provide tools and support
The creation of a plan is foundational to SMARTstart. It is expected all participants complete or update a plan by the end of the program.
Eligibility & commitment
Who is eligible?
- People with an idea for a business
- New business owners that have been in operation for less than 3 years
- Airdrie residents (or entrepreneurs who have/will have a business located in Airdrie) who are 18 years of age or older
- Program runs over 8 months, from late February to October
- Entrepreneurs spend about 40 hours completing online and in-person training
Mentors commit to spending about 30 hours assisting their entrepreneur.
More than 130 entrepreneurs have completed SMARTstart Airdrie since it began in 2014!
SMARTstart was designed by a group of local partners and is delivered right here in Airdrie.
Our entrepreneurs have opened businesses, grown their businesses and improved their business practices. We’ve also had participants determine that their idea is not viable or that they don’t have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. We also consider this a success.
We’re proud to say many of our entrepreneurs and mentors have been recognized for their success. Several have won or been nominated for an Airdrie Business Award.
Community support doesn’t end after 8 months!
SMARTstart Encore is exclusive to past and current SMARTstart entrepreneurs and mentors. It’s an opportunity for you to keep your business skills sharp while reconnecting with colleagues and making new connections. Upon completion of SMARTstart, you’ll gain access to learning and networking opportunities, ongoing communications and a private Facebook group.
Airdrie Entrepreneur Common is a non-profit organization proudly operated by the City of Airdrie Economic Development and Community Futures Centre West. But we don’t do it alone! Thank you to our valued partners and sponsors for your continued support of the SMARTstart program and entrepreneurship in Airdrie.