SMARTstart celebrates 2023 entrepreneurs

AIRDRIE, ALBERTA – Eleven up-and-coming local entrepreneurs representing 10 businesses were celebrated on Wednesday, Oct. 25, as they became the tenth cohort of SMARTstart Airdrie graduates. The entrepreneurs spent the last eight months refining their idea for a new business or working to strengthen their existing businesses by taking part in workshops, business skills training, networking, and one-on-one support with a mentor, all facilitated by the made-in-Airdrie entrepreneurial training program. Working with their mentor, each participant completed a business, strategic or feasibility plan that will guide their businesses and create a foundation for success.

“This is the tenth year the program has been offered in Airdrie and each year we are blown away by the amazing progress made by our entrepreneurs,” says Jessica Williamson, SMARTstart Organizing Committee member. “This group has built connections with their mentors, local business professionals, business support organizations, and SMARTstart alumni. This community will continue to rally around the entrepreneurs to watch their businesses grow.”

Mayor Peter Brown provided a celebratory toast during the event, in acknowledgement of the participants and the longstanding success of the award-winning program delivered by City of Airdrie Economic Development and Community Futures Centre West.

The 2023 participants recognized at the event were:

  • Brianna Horncastle, Heidi’s Pies
  • Jennine Kelly, Jennine Kelly HR Consulting
  • Obi Nnaemeka, Yummy Fantasy African Restaurant
  • Richard and Tyler Baptist, Airdrie Renos
  • Sharla Crowie, Bloom Narratives
  • Caelen Haney, Gummi Boutique
  • Gail Fuhr, Noggin Nutrition
  • Michelle Speranza, Core Balance Centre
  • Pamela Payne, Empire Details
  • Samantha Barnaschone, Higher Frequency Travel

These participants now join a robust alumni group of 144 entrepreneurs that have completed SMARTstart training, going on to grow businesses like Byoode Bar, Maxi Foods, Tarin Resource Services, Airdrie Acupuncture and 948 Brewing Company.

Dr. Michelle Speranza, a 2023 SMARTstart entrepreneur and owner of Core Balance Centre, moved her chiropractic practice to Airdrie two years ago and said the SMARTstart program has set her up with the foundation she needed to grow her business.     

“Being a new clinic owner, there is a lot I needed to learn about operating my business, as opposed to just working in it. The online and in person classes deliver a wealth of information and the mentorship and relationships built with others in the program has been invaluable,” said Speranza, adding that since she moved her business she has been blown away by the resources and support the City of Airdrie provides to support new businesses and entrepreneurs.

Also celebrated were more than 20 local business leaders who volunteer as SMARTstart mentors and workshop presenters. This year Dr. Melanie Beingessner of Blessingways Family Wellness and Jo-Anne Yau of Walsh LLP were honoured for their fifth year of mentorship. Joan Traub, former owner of Airdrie Yoga Studio, was awarded the program’s first ten-year mentor recognition having been with the program since its inception in 2014.

“Mentorship is the cornerstone of SMARTstart,” said Lauren Levay, Organizing Committee member. “It’s the compass that guides new entrepreneurs through the uncertainty of running a business, providing them with invaluable wisdom, perspective, and ultimately helping them realize their full potential.”

SMARTstart is currently recruiting participants for the 2024 program, which runs February through October. Applications are open until December 11, 2023. Entrepreneurs with an idea or new businesses (in operation for less than three years) are invited to learn more at one of the upcoming information sessions happening on November 7, at 12 p.m. or November 30, at 7 p.m.

To learn more, visit or e-mail

Attendees take part in a SMARTstart celebration at Brella Vida on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023 in Airdrie, Alta. Britton Ledingham/iEvolve Media