HURON COUNTY – The 2021 Starter Company Plus program saw the highest participation levels in the program’s history, a press release from the county said on April 27.
“The partnerships and business collaborations that have formed as a result of the Starter Company Plus program are invaluable,” said Vicki Lass, Huron County’s director of economic development. “Use of facilities, retail events, cross promotions, group tours of local wineries and restaurants, and sharing of products and services are a few highlights of the opportunities that have occurred during this program and from these budding entrepreneurs.”
Ten participants completed a 15-week training program that included coaching, mentoring, and workshops covering all aspects of business management, prepared business plans, conducted a strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat (SWOT) analysis, and pitched their business idea to the Grant Review Committee, composed of respected business community representatives.
The current committee is composed of three business community representatives, a report to county council said: Leanne Kavanagh, business owner and Huron County Economic Development Board member; Philip Maier, business owner and representative of the business community at large; and Winona Bailey, Zurich and Area BIA representative, and Community Futures Huron board member.
“These impressive business pitch presentations proved the dedication and commitment that our participants have towards their entrepreneurial spirit and business endeavors, making the decision for the review committee extremely challenging.”
Kavanagh said, “The day of the pitches was amazing, and while this was executed by Zoom, I could feel the pride in each business owner as they presented their hard work one by one. What an incredible program this has become, tangible positive impact on our local business community that we as Huron County can and should be extremely proud of.”
Four of those participants successfully obtained Starter Company Plus funding, totalling $15,000, the release stated.
Graduates will continue to have ongoing access to business services and support offered through the Huron County Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC).
The graduates who participated in the pilot mentorship program will be matched with “specific business mentors, allowing ongoing support and guidance for another six months.”
In partnership with Community Futures Huron, graduates will receive financial consultations and an opportunity to apply for a small business loan.
“Economic development for Huron County is essential to sustain Huron County’s attraction and retention of businesses,” said Philip Maier, Grant Review Committee member. “Funding this program is a good investment for developing well coached entrepreneurs from within the county and should have the number of grants increased proportional to the number promising participants.”
The 10 graduates were Advanced Block Corporation, Little Bluestem Cottage, Changing Gears, Simply Divine Essentials, Crichet Handmade Designs, Sole Purpose – Essential Foot Care, Farmhouse Treasures, To Your Table, Lake Affect Media, and Weber Appliance Repair.
The four companies to receive funding from the 2022 Starter Company Plus include:
- Changing Gears to help develop eco-conscious, health, and safety travel kits for participants.
- Sole Purpose - Essential Foot Care to purchase an autoclave.
- To Your Table for the purchase of a commercial fridge.
- Weber Appliance Repair towards gas fitting training and certification.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times