The 2021 SMARTstart program is off to the races!

The SMARTstart program, which has been running since 2014, has assisted over 120 entrepreneurs with the skills to set their business up for success. The program is designed with entrepreneurs in mind to provide them with real-world business skills and access to tailor-made advice. The goal of the program is to increase the chance of new businesses surviving those first crucial years.

SMARTstart is delivered over 8-months and connects the participants with online learning, workshops, and mentorship. Each entrepreneur walks away with a completed plan either feasibility, business or strategic and connections to the Airdrie business community.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, SMARTstart has transitioned online but the organizing committee has kept the 2021 cohort small with hopes that indoor gatherings will be allowed at some point during the 8-month program. The 2021 program is made up of 10 entrepreneurs representing 8 businesses and 11 mentors.

Natashia Tiel owns Tiel Virtual Solutions, a freelance business that provides coaches, course creators and entrepreneurs with tech-savvy support for their online marketing and online course / virtual event needs. She is passionate about helping coaches and course creators reclaim their time by providing online marketing support that removes the overwhelm of needing to learn “all the tech”. Natashia defines her biggest challenge as ‘prioritizing the importance of working on my business, and not just in my business’ and looks forward to working with mentor Jennifer Benner of Benner Database Designs to provide the accountability and advice needed to create a strong foundation to grow.

As a new mom, Liz Holman spent hours trying to get her little one to sleep, surviving in a constant fog of sleeplessness. Little Sleep Coach was born from the idea of helping other moms who are also struggling during these trying years. She wants to share her knowledge with parents and let them know that it is possible to have good sleep for everyone in the home. Mentor Dr. Melanie Beingessner from Blessingways Family Wellness will be helping Liz to create a foundation and framework to grow her business over the next 5 years.

Tartan’ Sweet is a business idea based on making fun with kids easier. When Katie Downie was a full-time working mom she wanted to do fun things and create memories with her kids but rarely had the time or energy to make it happen. Her business goal is to make fun easy for busy parents by providing themed and seasonal survival kits containing everything parents need to create these memories, as well as customizable gift solutions to make every celebration easier. Helping Katie learn the basics of running a business is mentor Michelle Carre of LochSmith Consulting.

Business partners Elissa Breakenridge and Jen Berg aspire to create a welcoming place in Airdrie where parents and children can connect, learn, and grow together while engaging in a variety of high-quality, interactive, evidence-based Early Childhood programs and workshops. The little ones at Ready Set Soar! will learn social skills, build their brains and bodies, and have a fun adventure in every class. Gary Armstrong of Empowered Employee Education will be helping the pair through the process to take their idea and turn it into reality.

Lilian Jourieh owns Airdrie-based Smashdoor Marketing, a full-service marketing and media agency. Her agency builds and manages digital and traditional media campaigns, consults with clients on their marketing programs, and more. Lilian defines her biggest challenge as ‘succeeding in a competitive industry’ and looks forward to working with mentor Jo-Anne Yau of Robertson LLP to smash through the glass ceiling via hard work and merit.

After years of working for large firms, Kirsten Harrison saw an opportunity to step out on her own with Backyards & More. Her business specializes in landscape planning and design mainly for residential and light commercial properties. Mentor Heather Harke of Shoplift Deals Ltd. will be helping Kirsten to diversify her offerings and tackle the perceived seasonality of landscape planning and design.

Sharon Borson of Royal Appliance Repair has a goal to keep fixable appliances out of the landfill via her affordable appliance repair services. In 5 years’ time she hopes to build a self-sufficient team of employees who are known for excellent service at a reasonable price. Helping Sharon navigate the program and her business are mentors Tracy Goodbrand of Irricana Kountry Kennel and Kari Lines of Budget Blinds Airdrie.

Meagan and Scott Doerksen aspire to create an environmentally-sound hydroponics farm for Airdrie locals and vendors. Through embarking on this entrepreneurial journey, this husband and wife team want to set an example for their children that it is ok to try new things and work towards the change you want to see in the world. Andrew Bennett of the I.T. Company will be helping the pair through the process to take their idea and turn it into reality.