Meet the Canada Starts Grant Recipients

In September 2020, Ownr by RBC Ventures, in partnership with StaplesShopify, and Moneris, launched Canada Starts, a $200,000 fund to help aspiring Canadian entrepreneurs get up and running.

Our team was humbled by the overwhelming response to this initiative, as we received over 1,000+ high-quality applications. We’re proud to be able to empower and support entrepreneurs to take the first step towards launching their dream business.

Applications for Canada Starts have closed, but we are continuing to provide tools and resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow their business. Learn more here.

Check out the list below for spotlight features on our Canada Starts Grant Recipients.

(List will continue to be updated)

Half Step Sound

Richard McNeil

Half Step Sound will provide customers with high fidelity digital audio recordings and post production services for use in TV and film as well as corporate and private applications. It is owned and operated by Richard McNeil an experienced audio engineer, location sound technician, music producer and composer.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I have been working in audio for the last eight years. It all started when my band needed to start producing recordings and we could not afford to hire someone out of house. I quickly fell in love with the process of capturing moments forever and spending long hours in the studio getting everything to sound just right. As time went on I got hired to work on a feature film in the sound department. Recently I spent the summer and fall of 2020 in the sound department of “The Curse of Oak Island” and was inspired by my boss Dan Stewart, who was the Audio Coordinator for the show, to get the gear and start my own business doing location sound and post production. With the help of Canada Starts this dream has materialized much faster than I ever could have hoped.

Give us some background on your business.

Half Step Sound is an all in one solution for content creators who need high quality audio for their productions. Using industry standard hardware and software H.S.S. is capable of recording on locations in a wide range of situations with seamless timecode sync to video. H.S.S. can also take care of post processing such as noise removal, over dubs and scores.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The biggest inspirations for H.S.S. are Dan Stewart of “Red Maple Films”, Ian Thompson and Cory Sewell who have mentored me through the early stages of learning about this industry and what it takes to be competitive in it. They have been integral in learning about the equipment, politics and general ins and outs of the business. They have shown me that you can be your own boss in this field and love your job!

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

I am using the grant money to purchase a Sound Devices 633 field recorder, and a Neumann kmr 81 microphone that will be the backbone of the business. These are heavy duty pieces of gear that will provide industry standard sounding recordings. H.S.S. will also use some of the grant money for web / graphic design and social media content creation.

Where can we learn more about your business?

H.S.S. is currently working on web presence so stay tuned for website and social media launch!

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

The short term goal for H.S.S. is to land some short films and documentaries being shot over the winter of 2021 to add to the roster of completed successful projects.

Crisper

Kieran Alkerton

Crisper is Canada’s first and only zero waste and plant-based meal kit service, delivering fresh ingredients and tasty recipes in reusable and returnable packaging. Our guiding principle is conscious convenience: ready-to-cook meals delivered to your door without the cost to the environment. Crisper kits are packed in high quality reusable containers that we retrieve from your doorstep.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

In early 2020, I left my job at an environmental non-profit with a goal of becoming self-employed. I didn’t yet know exactly what I would do, except that I wanted to contribute to positive change for the environment and the planet. When the COVID-19 pandemic started and I was without work, I changed course and started volunteering as a cook in a food bank. It was there that I turned my attention towards the food industry and started thinking about whether I could start something that would have a positive impact on our food supply chain. I had always been attracted to meal kit services for their innovation and convenience, but was shocked at how much waste they generated through single-use packaging. I decided to see if I could start a meal kit service that would provide the same convenience, without all the waste.

Give us some background on your business.

When you subscribe to Crisper, you’ll receive a kit of pre-portioned groceries with recipe cards every week. You choose the number of meals, and we provide the exact amount of food with step-by-step instructions. Our recipes are tasty, fast, and suited for any level of experience in the kitchen. The major meal kit companies offer few plant-based options and create mountains of plastic waste from single-use packaging. Crisper kits help you: – Save time spent meal planning and grocery shopping – Waste less food with perfectly portioned ingredients – Reduce plastic waste – Maintain a plant-based diet.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I’m inspired by the challenge to demonstrate that it’s possible to build a viable and profitable company without resorting to wasteful practices.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The Canada Starts grant will make an invaluable contribution to the launch of Crisper, and allow us to scale up quicker by hiring the talent we need and promoting our products through digital marketing.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Website – http://www.crisperkits.ca

Facebook – facebook.com/crisperkits

Instagram – @crisperkits

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’re incredibly grateful for the support provided by this grant, and we look forward to sharing our story as we launch and grow.

My Digital Waiter

Alex Wu, Co-Founder & CEO, Brian He, Co-Founder & Co-CTO, Arya Soukilo, Co-Founder & Co-CTO, Yuancun Liu, COO

My Digital Waiter provides a cloud-based SaaS solution that will help restaurants to reopen safely and quickly. Through our platform, dine-in customers can directly place orders using any web browser on their smartphones. Similarly, restaurant operators can access and manage the orders using any internet browsers on a Pad/Phone device of their choosing with no installation required.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

My co-founders and I worked in Silicon Valley and the tech industry in general for a while. When COVID-19 happened, we thought it is a good opportunity for us to combine our skill sets and do something that can help people through the crisis and give back to the community that we grew up in.

Give us some background on your business.

MyDigitalWaiter.com provides a cloud-based SaaS solution that will help Restaurants and reopen safely and quickly. Our platform allows dine-in customers to order directly through their own smartphone via web browsers, no application required. Tens of thousands of restaurants are at a rush to open across the country trying to balance safety and impending economic hardship. Insiders estimate that more than 50% of restaurants may have to declare bankruptcy if they keep their doors closed. With pent up demand, restaurants are a top hotbed of potential outbreak. MyDigitalWaiter takes a major risk factor out of the equation allowing dine-in customers to place orders directly from their own smartphone eliminating the need to interact with wait staff and touching shared menus or iPad-based ordering systems. MyDigitalWaiter have a product at the ready to deploy across the country, and integration and implementation can be done quickly to reduce risk of exposure and contact across the country immediately. Contactless dining is a standard in most major restaurants in large cities in China but has lagged in adoption within North America and Europe. The COVID crisis and the demand to re-imagine the new normal within the restaurant industry will provide tailwinds to contactless dining becoming the norm. Not only does it provide customers and staffs a peace of mind, but it also increasing table turnover and reduces labor costs for restaurants that are often stretched thin and already operating on razor-thin margins.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

As an all immigrant team, we are inspired by our parents and those who came to Canada with nothing but was able to build successful businesses and enterprises with grit and hard work.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The funding will be deployed to support both business registration and company operations. We are currently working with Fasken’s emerging business unit on corporate registration. While some of the costs will be waivered by them, we expect potential lawyer fees to range from hundreds to the low thousands. Aside from the lawyer fee, we expect to incur approximately $7,000 in marketing expenditures and research and development costs over the next quarter. We expect to incur $2,000 in marketing expenditure relating to marketing content production (marketing video, website design, graphic design, etc.), paid social media advertising, and printed media (posters, pamphlets, etc.). We expect a further $5,000 to be invested in product development expenses relating to third-party developers, Amazon Cloud, and cybersecurity evaluation. We hope the grant will help to cover part if not the entire aforementioned expenditures so we can avoid potential funding shortfalls and focus on building the business.

Where can we learn more about your business?

www.mydigitalwaiter.com

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We plan to offer a free version of our product to restaurants across the country to help them through this crisis.

LoveCards

Sanda Ajzerle

LoveCards sells mental-health themed greeting cards. Different than “get well soon” cards, LoveCards recognizes that sometimes we all need a little support for going through a mental health issue – that support is not just limited to physical illnesses. They’re intended as a gentle show of encouragement for anyone going through something – whether it’s a tough life event or ongoing mental health challenges – even when we don’t quite know what to say.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

My name is Sanda, and I’m a 26-year-old public servant, originally from Germany and Bosnia, but currently situated in Ottawa, Canada. A few years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety – two anxiety disorders at once actually. At the same time I was also diagnosed with “major depressive disorder”. I didn’t understand – I was an ambitious, busy, optimistic, intelligent individual. I didn’t even realize I had depression, let alone “major” depression. A few years later, I was also diagnosed with panic attack disorder – I was having panic attacks at least 3 times a day. Writing this out, it seems like I was a mess. But actually, somehow through it all, I was still living my life. No one knew anything about what I was struggling with. Before I was diagnosed (that is, when I was “mentally healthy” – or so I thought) I was always adamant about being open about mental illness. I didn’t want anyone around me to feel like they couldn’t talk about them. It makes sense that after my diagnoses, it was incredibly important for me to be open about my own struggles, even though it was (really) difficult. And the more I spoke about my illnesses to the people around me, the more they opened up to me about their own challenges. Friends who had been suffering from depression or panic attacks or OCD tendencies for years. And throughout all that, it became clear that sometimes hearing “it’ll get better soon” or “you’ll be fine” really doesn’t help. Sometimes it feels like your pain is being diminished, or like a countdown has started on how long you have until you should be “better”. But the reality is that sometimes you get better, then you get worse, then you get better again, and then you get worse again – and you go through that cycle a hundred times. Hence the birth of LoveCards. These cards were specifically created to allow you to show your support to others who might just need to know you’re there – without the pressure of getting better soon or feeling like sliding backwards is a “failure”. Sometimes people just need to know you’re there for them – no strings attached.

Give us some background on your business.

LoveCards will offer a variety of greeting cards specializing in messages relating to mental health. There will be lines relating to anxiety, depression, grief, ADHD, and more. LoveCards will also feature designs from small Canadian artists, in order to support their businesses as well as provide a community-based element to the cards. Overall, it will focus on both mental health and on community support. LoveCards messaging will focus on “non-toxic” positivity. The term “toxic positivity” refers to the” excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations”. The issues with toxic positivity is that it minimizes and invalidates the emotions that a person may be experiencing. The idea not that saying nice things is actually a negative thing to do, or that a positive mindset is a bad thing, but rather that feeling sad, depressed, anxious (etc), is a normal and totally ok thing to be experiencing. The idea is to get rid of the burden of being “ok”/”healed”/”fixed” so that the support you’re giving to that person makes them actually feel truly supported.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest inspiration as an aspiring entrepreneur would be to build a successful business which not only sustains me, but also sustains others in my community – whether that’s by hiring them into the business or engaging local entrepreneurs to contribute. Having a business which earns a ton of money is obviously great, but I want the impact to be much larger than that. With LoveCards, I hope to support local artists by hiring them to design the cards. Plus, there’s the overall mission of the company which is to increase awareness of mental health symptoms from a realistic point of view – that mental health challenges are not something that goes away after a week of sleep and ice cream, but that it can be a years’ long journey.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The grant will be used to start up a Shopify store and secure some preliminary inventory. Approximately half of the grant will go toward advertising to scale the shop and brand as quickly as possible.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Instagram: @lovecardsca

Website coming soon: www.lovecardsshop.myshopify.com

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

I’m so excited to get started and I’m incredibly grateful for this grant!

Teahead Co.

Roman Kashcheev, Andres Dovale; Co-Founders

Teahead Co. is the place to buy pinnacle teas & teaware, learn about tea & tea culture, escape routine and embark on your tea discovery journey. Our mission is to disrupt the acceptance of low quality commodity tea as the status quo, and bring quality tea culture to the Canadian masses. Teahead will push the limits of what you thought tea could be – its ability to ease the mind, soothe the soul, or just be delicious.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Andres: It all started over cups of tea that Roman would brew for us at his house. Roman has a long history of being a tea geek and connoisseur, and really introduced me to that world, and I became hooked. We were both surprised by the lack of tea consciousness in Toronto, given how good it could be. It was then when we realized that we were in a perfect position to do something about it. As a law student I knew legal costs would be a hindrance for us both, so we just did everything ourselves. I concentrated on legal work and finance, while Roman focused on the product side and marketing. This combination is proving to be very effective.

Give us some background on your business.

Teahead is about cultivating (no pun intended) a love and appreciation for the finest teas from around the world in Canada. We saw a huge gap between what Canadians consume and have come to know as tea, and what top grade teas actually taste like. We are here to change that, and elevate the tea standard in Canada. It’s time to throw out your teabags!

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The process of bringing an idea into reality is very exciting for both of us, especially since it’s centered around something we are both passionate about. Even the smallest steps feel like accomplishments, because we have full ownership and responsibility of the endeavour.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Andres: Our goal is to finalize the website, and source our initial collection of teas & teaware. Once we are set to go, we will use the funding to launch targeted advertising campaigns on social media.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Roman: Our website will be going live soon – visit teahead.co for more information. You can also follow @teaheadco on Instagram, there is a lot of interesting educational and philosophical content coming 😉

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Despite the challenging reality that we all find ourselves in today, it’s important to stay grounded, present, and appreciate the little things in our daily lives. We hope that our tea can allow Canadians to achieve this.

Qbeauté Beauty Supply Co.

Sharon Jojolola, Titilayo Akinbode, Lillian Aboagye

Qbeauté Beauty Supply Co. is an online beauty supply company whose mission is to provide our customers with quality and affordable beauty products. Our vision is to promote and celebrate the uniqueness of individual beauty through the creation of an e-store that offers a range of quality, accessible, and affordable beauty products. Our products and services are specifically catered to Black people. We are different from our competitors because we are dedicated to supporting Black-owned Canadian beauty businesses, by giving them the opportunity to sell on our platform.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Our team comprises three general partners; Sharon Jojolola (20), Titilayo Akinbode (22), and Lillian Aboagye (22). Sharon has a Bachelors of Arts and plans to pursue an MBA. Titilayo is currently pursuing her Bachelors of Science. She considers herself a beauty enthusiast and advocates for black beauty products. Lillian has a Bachelors of Arts, and plans to go to Law School to study Law. All three partners met in University and have been friends for over four years. We founded Qbeauté because we noticed the inaccessibility of beauty products catered to Black people in Canadian beauty supply stores, and the unfair prices of the few accessible products. We created this platform to solve the gap in the Canadian beauty industry. We understand that beauty comes in different forms, and that is why we wanted to create an e-store that celebrates and embraces all forms of beauty.

Give us some background on your business.

Qbeauté sell a range of beauty products. These include hair and grooming products for both men and women, lashes, Wigs and wig care products, nail care products, and Makeup products. We will partner with an array of Black-owned Canadian beauty businesses who create beauty products, in order to make some of these products available to our customers. Our business will solve the problem of under representation in the beauty industry.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Our biggest inspiration as aspiring entrepreneurs is to inspire others from our community to pursue their dreams and challenge themselves to create their dream job that can help pave the way for other people. Essentially, we want to develop solutions to problems present within our community that will make people’s lives easier. Therefore, we hope to be that example and pave the way for aspiring young Black entrepreneurs in Canada.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thank you for selecting us for the grant. We genuinely appreciate it. We look forward to using the $5,000 grant towards covering most of our expenses, such as product cost, shipping cost, marketing cost, software and technology maintenance cost, and an emergency fund. We also hope that this grant will help us push our business on the right path of expansion and branch out to a broader audience in Canada.

Where can we learn more about your business?

The website will launch this November, stay tuned: qbeaute.ca

Instagram: qbeautecanada

Facebook: QBeauteCanada

Email: Qbeaute@outlook.com

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

Yes we do! We are glad you asked! Multiple business owners that we had the chance to meet and talk with, asked if we had a physical location for them to sell their products, so that initially sparked our future aim for this business. In the future, when we have the opportunity to scale our business, we would love to open a warehouse/physical location in the GTA and in other populous cities. This physical location and warehouse will allow business owners to bring their products to our store and make commission based sales. Customers can have access to these products by shopping in the store section. The warehouse section will be used for storage and fulfillment of orders placed through our online store. We also hope to do philanthropy work through our business such as essential goods drive, scholarship giveaways, sponsorships, education and much more. The sky’s the limit!

Bombshell Boxing

Christina Morrow, Founder

Bombshell Boxing creates high-quality, environmentally conscious, and ethically made activewear for women in martial arts. 100% made in Canada, our activewear is designed to help women feel better represented within the sport, heighten their performance, and increase comfort while training. At Bombshell Boxing, we’re aiming to make martial arts a more inclusive and empowering space for women.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I’m finishing up a degree in International Relations at UBC. I’m currently completing the League of Innovators LABS program, and I usually train Muay Thai 4-6 times a week. I love martial arts because it allows me to push the limits of what my body is capable of. Muay Thai has taught me self discipline, made me stronger, and allowed me to improve at something well beyond the age of 18. Martial arts has created a community for me here in Vancouver, and because of my love for the sport, the idea for Bombshell Boxing was born. I want to welcome more women into the sport that has given me so much.

Give us some background on your business.

At Bombshell Boxing, we believe that there is a serious need for martial arts activewear designed by women, for women. Our goal with Bombshell Boxing is to provide high-quality, Canadian-made, and ethically sourced activewear for women in martial arts. By doing this, women in martial arts will no longer need to wear men’s or unisex gear to train, because they’ll have a brand they know and trust that caters to their needs.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Probably all of the women who have reached out to me so far expressing how excited they are about the brand. I’ve had a number of women who practice Jiu Jitsu tell me how stoked they are to have women’s gear, rather than extra small men’s or unisex. Being in an industry that is so male dominated, I am excited to help bring more women into the fold. I am also excited to work hand in hand with women who are at the top of the sport to create the best available activewear on the market.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

This grant will allow us to begin research and development into the manufacturing of women’s gear for Jiu Jitsu. Women’s rash guards and spats are few and far between right now, and women who practice Jiu Jitsu are often forced to wear unisex rash guards or rash guards that are made specifically for men. I will also use a portion of the grant funding to hire a professional photographer to take photos highlighting our activewear being worn during training. Finally, I will set aside a portion of the grant funding to update our website, as my beginner Shopify skills could only go so far.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can checkout our website at http://www.bombshellboxing.com or our social media channels (Instagram and Facebook) at @bombshellboxing. Instagram is our most up to date social media channel, so that’s the one to watch.

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’re releasing embroidered hoodies and black baseball caps in early December! The hoodies are made of bamboo, so they’re incredibly soft, and the baseball caps are waterproof and made in Richmond, BC. Hopefully our first rash guard/spat combo will be released in early spring, so keep an eye on our social media channels for updates!

ProShyft

Cameron Stephens, CEO & Co-Founder

We believe the accounting industry is poised for a significant shift in how professional services are rendered; moving on from the traditional brick and mortar offices to a new virtual space that welcomes technology and eliminates costly overhead expenses. We are building ProShyft to be an online marketplace that clients can use to find on-demand professionals for all their accounting needs and for said professionals to find new clients to add to their portfolios. We will have a hands-on approach to ensure that we only allow quality clients and highly vetted professionals on the platform.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I am a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) that has worked at a large national accounting firm for 3 and half years before I founded ProShyft. Being an entrepreneur has always been the goal of mine since before I started my Bachelor of Commerce degree. I have had lots side hustles while growing up whether it was buying and reselling various items such as vehicles, hockey cards, or playing video games for money; I always wanted something that I had full control in. While working at my previous accounting firm, I noticed many inefficiencies and the lack of flexibility that is inherent within many firms regarding their clients and staff. This led me to wondering if there is a better solution available that could meet the needs of both the clients and professionals, to which the idea for ProShyft was created.

Give us some background on your business.

With ProShyft, we want to provide an alternative solution to your traditional accounting firm for small business owners to access on-demand virtual services at a more affordable solution. ProShyft is not an accounting firm and that will be the biggest difference between us and traditional firms. Instead we are a two-sided marketplace that will facilitate/manage the relationships between the small business owners and professionals who are using our platform. We are creating this platform for small business owners who are looking for on-demand virtual accounting services whether its external compliance related matters or bookkeeping services. Small business owners can access professionals immediately to receive the services at a more affordable price due our lean infrastructure which cuts out the large overhead expenses inherent within traditional accounting firms. Our platform allows for services to be rendered quicker to ensure no missed deadlines. Lastly, small business owners can put full trust into ProShyft as all the professionals on our platform will be Canadian only and will have gone through a robust vetting process to ensure they meet our requirements. For the professional side, the ones who want to go out on their own but are struggling with the aspect of getting clients can utilize our platform to offer their services to supplement their income. It will allow them to have full autonomy to set their own hours and pay rate, opportunity for higher earnings potential, flexibility to work anywhere they want and allow them to choose what projects to work on that meets their expertise. In addition, those solo or small team of practitioners who are already established can use the platform to complement their existing practice.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

There are many factors that excite me when it comes to being an entrepreneur, whether it is the flexibility, leadership, vision, control, etc. But I believe the most important aspect is helping clients, as this is what I enjoy the most as a CPA. During my time within public accounting I really strived towards connecting with clients and learning about them, but due to the limitations of working within a firm, you can only do so much. Creating ProShyft provides me the opportunity to help small businesses succeed at a much larger scale than I could have done, had I stayed at my prior firm.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thank you! We are super ecstatic ProShyft was selected as a recipient of the Canada Starts grant and are very appreciative of Ownr, Staples, Shopify, and Moneries for putting this program together. We plan on using this grant to help us cover legal expenses required for incorporation and to kickstart our marketing efforts. We estimate that majority of this grant will be used towards executing our marketing plan to generate exposure for ProShyft.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can visit us at http://www.ProShyft.com or through our social media accounts for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn @ProShyft. The platform will be ready in December with full launch likely coming either December or January, however we are operational right now with professionals available to provide future small business owners with on-demand accounting solutions.

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

As a new Startup, we plan on only targeting Alberta at the beginning. However, we are hoping as we grow and understand our business model more and receiving feedback from various users that we will have the platform ready to be launched across Canada before 2022.

Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic

Adam Starr, Maxwell Gauthier; Co-Founders

Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic (DST) is a waste management company that remanufactures plastic waste into consumer and industrial products via our semi-industrial shredder and injection machines. DST differs from traditional recycling methods in that we keep plastic waste local. In other words, we collect, sort, clean, and remanufacture plastic waste in the community it is consumed in. Starting at St. Francis Xavier University (St.FX), our aim is to divert plastic waste from landfills and oceans by creating a value-recovery system that empowers St.FX to manage their own plastic waste. This community-based solution to recycling does not yet exist in Canada and we hope to implement this solution to other academic institutions.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

We are both recent business graduates from the Schwartz School of Business at St. Francis Xavier University. In the summer of 2019, we were given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study community development abroad in Ghana, West Africa, and participate in a social justice internship. While there, we were stunned by the sheer volume of plastic waste everywhere, especially in people’s backyards. However, we worked with a local NGO that introduced us to a unique alternative to traditional recycling that will be directly addressing Ghana’s plastic crisis. In Ghana, we saw the detrimental effects that plastic pollution has on the environment and human health. We didn’t just hear about it, we saw people burning plastic on the side of the streets because they have no other way of dealing with it. As Canadians, we have the privilege of passing off our plastic waste and forcing the responsibility onto waste management companies. There is no denying that our current recycling systems are not effective in addressing the plastic crisis we all face. Additionally, there is not enough individual action surrounding plastic waste. This is because every natural ecosystem is extensively polluted every day and as Canadians, we have never felt obliged to take climate action as we do not see the negative effects directly. We are here to change that.

Give us some background on your business.

Our solution is a community-based (grassroot) approach to the global plastic crisis that involves diverting plastic waste from landfills and oceans by creating a value-recovery system from plastic waste. Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic (DST) aims to localize plastic waste management in Canada by empowering communities to manage their own plastic waste. We are implementing an effective alternative to traditional recycling: community-based recycling. This decentralized waste management approach ensures that the collecting, cleaning, sorting, and repurposing of plastic waste is managed by the community it resides in. For community-based recycling to be effective in diverting plastic waste from landfills and oceans, we must discover the most practical way to solve the contamination issue. We believe our small scale and community-based strategy to plastic waste management will solve the overwhelming problem that waste management companies face – receiving an excess amount of contaminated plastic. Our solution will be piloted at St.FX University, where we will partner with engineers and chemists to solve the root problem (contamination) on a small-scale. Starting October 2020, we will be utilizing two semi-industrial machines (shredder and injection machines) that transform plastic waste into any product that is desired by the St.FX community. The Shredder converts plastic waste into thousands of small flakes while the injection machine heats the small flakes and presses them into a mould. These unique moulds can create a variety of products such as kitchen utensils, drinkware, laptop/phone cases, coasters, building materials, or anything that can be physically engineered. The value proposition of our solution is four-fold: 1. Cleans the environment by diverting plastic waste before it enters local landfills and oceans. 2. Educates university staff and students about plastic pollution and the need for responsible waste disposal. 3. Empowers universities to start their own recycling workspaces, offering performance benchmarks for diverting plastic and creating employment opportunities. 4. Creates unique and innovative revenue streams from repurposed plastic products. DST is following the recommendations of Precious Plastic, an organization that acts as an open-source digital commons for this type of plastic recycling. They are providing us with machine blueprints, educational resources and access to their vast network of recyclers around the globe. To start, we will be collecting plastic waste from Facilities Management and Sodexo (the university’s food caterer). This plastic waste will then be processed through our machines. We have decided to collect and process three types of thermoplastic: HDPE (e.g. milk containers, shampoo bottles, bottle caps), PP (e.g. Tupperware, yogurt boxes, syrup bottles), and PS (e.g. disposable coffee cups, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery). HDPE, PP, and PS are easier to shred and inject compared to other plastics and they present little to no health or safety hazards. These types are also consumed and disposed of at high volumes in academic settings. The products we produce will be sold through the St.FX Bookstore’s retail location and e-commerce platform.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Our biggest inspiration comes from our experience. When we were in Ghana we experienced the effects of the plastic crisis firsthand – the effects that everyone “talks” about. We didn’t just talk about it, we lived it. This grew our passion to resolve the plastic waste crisis and we believe that understanding the problem by experiencing it first hand is priceless. For these reasons, today, we are inspired to bring the same solution to St.FX University and the town of Antigonish with our own unique twist. We cannot simply wait for massive corporations to change how they produce plastic – they control the supply. Rather, as consumers, we must change the way we interact with plastic – we control the demand. Specifically, we must redefine traditional recycling by repurposing plastic instead of recycling it. Plastic is a valuable resource and we aim to turn trash (plastic) into treasure (products).

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

We are so grateful for receiving the $5,000 grant. We will start by allocating 70% of our funding to obtain product molds that are essential for creating products from the plastic waste we collect. The remaining 30% will be used to obtain collection bins. We need the bins to ensure we have a steady stream of plastic coming to our workspace and molds to create valuable products for students, faculty, and staff to purchase.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Facebook: Drastic Scholastic Thermoplastic

Instagram: @drasticscholasticthermoplastic

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

DST transforms plastic waste into products, but at the core, we are service-oriented. We believe that a community-based solution, scaled correctly, can solve the global plastic problem. We envision our service as a franchise package for academic institutions to implement themselves. Before we do that, we must overcome the hurdle of contaminated plastic in our waste streams. We recognize that the biggest challenge we will face is dealing with contaminated plastic. Currently, 91% of Canadian plastic is not recycled and therefore ends up in landfills or oceans, due to high levels of contamination (Environment and Climate Change Report, 2019). At academic institutions, the majority of plastic waste is contaminated with food, chemical, and microbial impurities. As a result, otherwise recyclable material is deemed landfill waste. In order to divert plastic waste and therefore achieve a value-recovery system, we must first develop a decontamination system that produces a steady stream of clean plastic. This technology must be capable of handling the various types of contaminants present at academic institutions. In the short-term, October 2020 – August 2021, we will be working with our team of engineers to develop process improvements that lead to an increased amount of diverted plastic and plastic value recovery (performance benchmarks). Simultaneously, we will be creating the first, go-to-market, “DST Package”. This package will provide franchisees with performance benchmarks and all the necessary tools to implement community-based recycling at their respective institution. This package includes machines, equipment, decontamination technology, educational resources, product molds, and operating information. In the long-term, September 2021 – January 2023, we will be implementing our improved solution at St. Mary’s University while obtaining a Masters in Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This Masters program is solely designed to enhance start-ups, which will forge us the opportunity to finalize our go-to-market package. With our package finalized, we will be reaching out to other universities and colleges within Nova Scotia, and eventually nation-wide, to implement our solution in their local contexts.

Couply

Denesh Raymond, Tim Johnson; Co-Founders

Couply has a simple goal: we want to use technology to help bring couples closer together. While there are many apps that help spark relationships, there aren’t so many for those that are already in one – we wanted to create an app for couples. We’ve created the Couply personality mesh test, which will show you areas in which you and your partner mesh and areas in which you might have challenges. Couply will then provide custom date ideas and relationship advice that is all custom tailored to your relationship!

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

Denesh: Myself and my co-founder Tim Johnson both worked at Wattpad in very different roles. I worked as a developer and Tim on the Brand Partnerships team. For the last few years, I’ve been with Connected, working on a host of apps and products as a tech lead. Tim approached me and walked me through some slides on his idea for Couply seeking a technical co-founder. I was sure that an app like this would exist. After some research in the space, I was shocked it didn’t! The rest is history. Tim: Denesh had a mystique near-legendary status from his time at Wattpad for being able to find a solution for any problem. I had the idea for Couply, and went to pitch it to him as I knew this would need a technical co-founder to become a reality. As a man of few words, I wasn’t sure what Denesh initially thought. I was thrilled when he was open to coming on as a co-founder to bring this to life. We’ve poured a lot of time creating what I think is a really incredible product. Our early testing has gotten us excited to approach our launch.

Give us some background on your business.

The idea of Couply is simple: we are an app to help bring couples closer together. The app will be completely custom for each couple using it. So depending on your partner’s personality and the things that are important to them in a relationship you’ll get ideas and inspiration designed just for them. Some examples; Perhaps ‘words of praise’ are really important to your partner, so a simple love note on their desk could go a long way. Maybe they sit more on the introverted scale and register high on creativity – if that’s the case you’ll get some great date ideas that will match that as well. There are some really incredible personality studies out there and fantastic books written on how these impact your relationship. We leveraged a lot of this work as we built our own large-scale mesh test and then used those insights to power our whole app. This means that Couply will give you custom ideas that match your partner’s wants. It’s obviously up to our users to act on this, but we’ve given them some simple tools that they can use right in the app. The feedback from our early testers was fantastic, for example something as small as picking up one partner who is a foodie some tasty treats can change the whole dynamic of an evening and make them feel loved. That’s what we are truly excited about – actually helping our audience make their relationships better right away. Future proofing your long term relationship and being the best partner to your significant other that you can be!

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

Tim: Both my father and brother are founders and entrepreneurs, so I have got to see them both grow their businesses and witness the passion and grit it requires. In my professional life, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work at Wattpad for almost five years . Our Co-Founders Allen and Ivan are probably my biggest inspirations, they way they’ve built Wattpad is just incredible. Denesh: After having worked in the tech industry for some time now, the dream has always been to branch off and do something on my own. Not only does that give me a sense of self accomplishment, the feeling of being able to help others through something I’ve created really gets me excited and keeps me going.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thank you, we are so thrilled to be recipients! Getting the email that we already had some buy-in has been so motivating. This will allow us to register our business and launch Couply on iOS and Android. We’ve got some pretty fun marketing ideas to drive buzz and awareness, so watch this space as we launch!

Where can we learn more about your business?

Please sign up to be an early adopter at http://www.couply.io – we can’t wait to share Couply with you!

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’re really close to launching the Couply app on iOS and Android. Right now we have hundreds of people that have signed up for an early release via http://www.couply.io so we are looking forward to launching the first iteration of Couply and getting lots of valuable audience feedback.

Tudu

Michael Wong, Founder

Tudu is a social platform for locals to find, create and share self-guided itineraries for date nights and things to do in their own city. With Covid discouraging travel, Tudu gives people an incentive to leave their house and gain new experiences by discovering new restaurants and local gems.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I have 7 years experience building web platforms at tech companies including Google. I am also the founder of @todotoronto, one of the largest sources for things to do in Toronto, with almost 70k local followers. My first business was in retail, selling tablecloths and fabrics at local farmers markets. After discovering my passion in tech, I got my bachelors of computer science from Queens’ University, and combined it with my passion of entrepreneurship to build and start many different app and web platforms.

Give us some background on your business.

Tudu allows locals to easily and quickly find plans for things to do in their own city – for free! We want to use this platform to help local influencers share all the hidden gems and great places/businesses that people may not have heard about. On the flip side, for the local Torontonian, they will be able to get an idea for a date night, or fun day out with friends in seconds. I have worked with many different restaurants in the past, and there are most definitely many that really should be getting more attention.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The amount of opportunity available right now as technology becomes more and more entrenched in everyone’s lives as well as different industries inspires me to constantly innovate.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

The grant will be used primarily towards marketing, and finding product-market fit. We have several strategies planned to experiment with different demographics which we are looking forward to testing!

Where can we learn more about your business?

Our site is located at http://www.whatstudu.com. We also have an instagram channel at @whatstudu

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

If you are interested in creating or checking out our content, feel free to check us out at http://www.whatstudu.com! We are gathering user feedback and would love any thoughts on how we can make this site more useful to everyone.

Bridge Textbooks

Ben Gigone

Bridge Textbooks is a campus-specific marketplace for students to easily – and safely – buy and sell used textbooks. By implementing an Escrow-like payment service to facilitate cashless transactions, students will be able to securely buy and sell textbooks with their peers – right on campus. Our goal is to help students spend less on expensive textbooks, and put some extra cash in their pockets!

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I was lucky enough to grow up with entrepreneurial parents, so forging my own path in business has been instilled in me since a young age. During my Master’s program (I studied Aerospace Engineer at the University of Toronto), I embarked upon my first “real” venture with a few friends, where we created an autonomous beach-cleaning robot. After spending just a few months in the start-up world (attempting to raise seed money, freaking out at pitch competitions, etc.) I was officially hooked. After graduation, I wanted to focus on solving problems that were important to me, and that could have a widespread impact. As a lover of higher-education, I found myself drawn towards issues related to school, and decided to tackle something that left a bad taste in my mouth (and my wallet!). Bridge Textbooks was born.

Give us some background on your business.

Bridge Textbooks will offer a campus-specific marketplace to allow students to buy and sell used textbooks. Our marketplace will exist primarily as a mobile application and will be free for students to use. Students will be able to post their used books to make some extra cash and browse available listings to help save on their textbook costs. We also plan to implement an Escrow-like payment service to facilitate cashless transactions and increase the security associated with person-to-person transactions.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, I’m always inspired by people who harness technology to make real change. Using skills that take time to learn and implementing them into something new is an incredibly difficult process – and ending up with a result that solves a problem for someone is incredible. While making the buying and selling process of used textbooks is hardly on the same level as solving world hunger, knowing that someone’s experience could be made easier through a service I helped to create constantly motivates me.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Bridge is so excited to launch our company through the Canada Starts program. We plan to use the $5,000 grant to implement some design upgrades to our application, and to execute an Ontario-wide marketing plan to get our first few users. We’re so excited to have been considered, and can’t wait to see what the future brings for our company.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can find out more about Bridge at our website (bridgetextbooks.com), on Instagram (@bridgetextbooks), or on our mobile app (Bridge Textbooks on the iOS App Store!).

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We’re aiming to be available at every major University and College in Ontario by January 2021! Look us up on the app store or follow us on our Instagram to stay updated.

The Frogger Niagara

Maria Dziarkach, Owner

Every knit and crochet artist dreads frogging- having to unravel their project because of an error. Even worse than frogging is a cashmere sweater gone to landfill despite being fully recyclable. Frogging is pretty satisfying when it involves bringing back the full potential of a damaged item. With sky-high prices of brand new yarn (and justifiably so), recycled yarn is a fantastic, more affordable way to knit up that dream garment.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I started knitting in 2016 after a series of stressful events relating to being a new University student and novice in life. I went to a knitting group at the local café with my best friend, ready to dish out my misfortunes. My best friend handed me a pair of needles to shut me up and showed me how to cast on, purl, and knit. From there, I was enamoured. I intended to knit a cashmere scarf, thinking the materials would be cheaper than buying something outright. Boy, was I wrong. And from there, I learned more and more about textile arts and the industry itself. I became hyper aware of fabric types and their structures, and became curious about how they were made. I started unraveling damaged sweaters after becoming ill and having to take a break from my nursing program. I was always good at spotting natural fibres and finding quality garments. This likely came from working in a designer dress shop when I was 16. As well as being taught by my parents how to spot quality in clothing.

Give us some background on your business.

The Frogger Niagara fully reclaims damaged, end-of-life sweaters and maintains the yarn and fibre integrity while doing so. This involves deconstructing the garment, unraveling the knit, and then washing the yarn in an antiseptic and anti-moth cedarwood bath. The yarn is then caked (rolled into an easy access ball) and ready to become a garment again in the hands of crafters!

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

The circular economy model. Endless growth is impossible, but maximizing your community’s opportunities ensures your efforts will make a lasting impact (and help you stay in business)!

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

I’m looking to purchase and build more efficient textile processing equipment and set up a proper website! These funds will also cover future vendor fees for craft markets.

Where can we learn more about your business?

The Frogger Niagara is on Facebook and Instagram (@thefroggerniagara), and you can check out my products currently on my Etsy page: etsy.com/ca/shop/thefroggerniagara

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

If you have damaged cashmere, wool, or any other natural fiber garments you’re willing to part with, don’t throw them out! Contact me through my social media and I’ll make sure to recycle them properly!

WrkBoost

Mohammed Adnan Raza, Founder

WrkBoost platform is geared to unlock firm value output by aligning corporate strategic objectives to individual tasks, instituting continuous feedback process, and ensuring overall employee well-being.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I am passionate about problem solving and enabling frictionless experience. I come from a humble background in India and have learned first hand from my dad (a teacher turned entreprenuer), the value of continuous learning & the importance of investing in the community you serve in. While working with him, I have experienced the challenges of running a small business, in a capital starved system while making most of the resources you have in hand – the idea summed up in an Indian concept called “Jugad” – a frugal invention mindset to solve a problem. I have always been fascinated by the pace of change, technology can bring in while ensuring an engaging experience. Over the last decade, I have worked as a problem solver & change agent in various industries from high-tech, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, & financial services to drive client oriented successful outcomes. More recently, as I have been working on understanding the future of workplace to help define the role of our business (as a wealth & asset manager), I see a major gap in the industry in the way we continue to measure and incentivize employee engagement & well-being. This issue has been further exaggerated due to the changes bought in by the growth in gig economy & current global pandemic. My goal is to help drive employee well-being, leveraging a transparent and a robust solution.

Give us some background on your business.

Employee engagement platform focused on driving meaningful conversations, delivering key actionable insights, and leveraging behavioural nudge techniques to improve employee experience and well-being. Our vision is to have Happy, Engaged and Supported Employees who bring their best to their organizations.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I draw my inspirations from the great leaders of the past and present, who have not settled for mediocre and have challenge the norm to revolutionize experience. I was recently reminded by a TED presentation Jeff Bezos made in the summer of 2007 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMKNUylmanQ) that change agents are often the ones who are not comfortable with the norm and have used that eerie sense of uneasiness as a strength to drive change. Technology, including virtualization, AI, XAAS based building blocks has decreased the cost of innovation and more importantly enabled successive testing to validate & quickly apply feedback to your value offering.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

Thanks to the seed grant provided by Canada Starts, we will be able to mobilize towards incorporating & setting up the business, which includes company registration and market research & validation.

Where can we learn more about your business?

You can learn more about us from our website at www.wrkboost.com.

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We look forward to driving employee well-being and productivity through meaningful continuous conversations and actionable insights.

TVAAG

Meghal Vijayan

TVAAG is a revolutionary Sustainable Activewear company that develops new-age Plant-based Fabrics. TVAAG’s products are unique in the fact that not just its Fabrics are sourced from Plants, but also its dyes. The dyes are extracted from Medicinal Herbs, scientifically known for its wellness properties. TVAAG has designed a ‘Plant-Influx’ Technology, which is a unique dyeing process using a combination of 24 herbs, that imparts its properties onto the fabric.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

As a child growing up in an Indian family, I often helped my mother make clothing and my father, a nature enthusiast, used healing plants to treat ailments. I was curious to know why couldn’t the same type of healing herbs that I grew up with, be used in clothing. Seeing the effect of fast fashion pollution has had on our environment, I had a dream to start a revolution in fabric. Drawing inspiration from what both my mother and father had taught me, I set out to make clothing from natural materials. To do this, I tapped into traditional methods of cloth making and spent months travelling to villages in India, where people actually made clothes using natural materials and non-toxic methods. That was valuable learning which would set the future tone of TVAAG. After almost a year of development and research, our team created an innovative clothing product made from plant-based fibres and dyed with a unique combination of 24 medicinal herbs, which are beneficial to the human skin This is when TVAAG was born. (TVAAG is derived from Ancient Sanskrit word meaning “skin”)

Give us some background on your business.

The key value proposition TVAAG’s products is its unique ‘Plant-Influx’ Fabric technology that enables us to create sustainable clothing sourced from plant fibers and blend them seamlessly with plant dyes. Finally the end product goes through a special process of being infused with Herbal Essential Oils to give it a natural fragrance which combats body-odour causing bacteria. This also imparts the wearer a soothing experience due to the aromatherapeutic properties. Since there are no synthetic dyes used here, every TVAAG product is unique in its look, gradient and texture. TVAAG is not just clothing, but rather an experience. Our company is founded on our 3-Leaf philosophy – Plant-based Lifestyle, Environmental Sustainability and Mindfulness. We are the only Athleisure brand in Canada to put Mindfulness of our community as a core priority. Our fabrics are high-performance and sustainable at the same time.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

My biggest inspiration is creating a future where our planet’s resources are used sustainably and distributed justly. At the same time, there must be a collective rise in Human consciousness . Because I believe only a conscious individual can give way to a sustainable society, not the other way round.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

As with all startups, we are currently bootstrapping and going through critical phases in our journey. So the grant came as a blessing for our Team. We cant express our gratitude in words The amount received from the grant will go towards incorporating our company, launching on Kickstarter and creating marketing materials for our promotion. This will help give us more traction to our launch.

Where can we learn more about your business?

Further details of our upcoming products and launch dates can be seen below. You can sign-up for our newsletter on our website.

Website: http://www.tvaagnation.com

Instagram: @tvaagnation

Faceboook: @tvaag

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We will enter the market this year through Kickstarter with Women’s Leggings as our first product. Eventually we will be expanding to an expansive portfolio of products, ranging from Bottoms and Tops to Shoes and Jackets etc. all made from Plants. We aim to position ourselves as the largest Plant-based Apparel name in Canada within the next 5 years. Through our brand, we want to create sustainable clothing to save our Mother Earth and the Human race from fast fashion pollution.

Copysmith

Jasmine Wang, CEO & Founder

Copysmith uses cutting-edge natural language processing to 10X your content marketing workflow. Generate a dozen variants of your ad, product description, or landing page at the click of a button. The place to go to brainstorm, collaborate on, and evaluate your content marketing.

Tell us about yourself and how your entrepreneurial journey began.

I started a Shopify store in 2019 and realized how painful content marketing was. For a new Shopify store looking to differentiate itself, branding and content are one of the most important work along with design. I had no extra money to hire an agency, and didn’t trust a freelancer to do it, so I did it all myself, and sunk hours into the process. My background is in natural language processing. There was a huge lightbulb moment where I realized I should apply my technical interests to a real business need.

Give us some background on your business.

Copysmith just launched this week and will aid folks in their content marketing along several axes. First, we help you brainstorm copy – just enter a few prompts and spin up dozens of variants of prose in seconds that you can edit down and tune for your company. Second, we help you collaborate on and manage your content. Move out of your spreadsheets and easily collect multi-stakeholder feedback on ads that are rendered exactly like they’ll appear once deployed. Finally, we are building an evaluation pipeline to help you iterate towards even more effective content.

What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?

I’m excited by, and admire, founders who run great companies and also read and write extensively: think Patrick Collison, Elon Musk, Andrew Kortina.

Congratulations on being a Canada Starts grant recipient! What are you looking forward to using the $5,000 grant towards?

This will go towards supporting our engineering team in making our product even better!

Where can we learn more about your business?

https://copysmith.ai/ https://twitter.com/copysmith_ai

Finally, any future plans for your business or anything else you’d like to share?

We want to work with and support Canadian entrepreneurs!


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