Creating a Pipeline to Success

How Enterprise Saint John is providing a pipeline for successful Entrepreneurs and Businesses

What do St. Malachy’s High School, Derek Chaisson and Dillon Consulting have in common?

Each have turned to Enterprise Saint John to get programming, advice, SEED loans or a solid process to get their business growing.

From planting the idea of entrepreneurship to creating a start-up or growing existing companies, the regional economic development agency is using the valuable connections we have in Saint John between our technology, people and strategic location to create a pipeline for job creation.

Since 2002, High school teachers across the region have counted on the support of Enterprise Saint John’s, Michele Lodge. As a former teacher who taught entrepreneurship, Lodge has helped teachers design programs to inspire students to pursue a career in entrepreneurship. They come up with a business concept, a marketing plan, a product or service they can sell to their peers at campus markets. Every year, about 1,900 students are exposed to the concept of building a business on their own from the ground up.  Others are exposed to the possibilities of careers in ICT with coding clubs.

“To have Enterprise Saint John involved in this kind of initiative is exactly where we need to go, allowing young people know what kind of opportunities are here. Research would show what influences young people most, is a mentor,” says Elizabeth Horgan, who is with the Anglophone South School District.

Lodge has also worked with aspiring entrepreneurs after they’ve left high school, including Derek Chaisson. He won the Start-Up Weekend event she held a few years ago.

It was the starting point in the pipeline that eventually brought him to ESJ’s Vennture Garage and Dakota Lutes. Through a structured program, entrepreneurs take an idea from concept to launch. They get valuable advice about how to get their business started and how to make it successful, with the help of Mentor-in-Residence, Professor and business expert, Dan Doiron from UNBSJ and ONB’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Rivers Corbett.

Chaisson took advantage of those valuable resources.

“Venture Garage has played a pivotal role in gaining traction with my Startup venture, Night Puck Technology. With the new Venture Garage structure implemented by Dakota we have reached a new level of engagement from both a resource and advice perspective. Guidance from mentors such as Dan & Rivers has reinforced and expedited our focus and drive.”

Start-ups or existing businesses can also get funding through the SEED loan program, managed by Enterprise Saint John. Candidates can present their plan to a committee, and if it’s approved, they can get up to $20,000 at a low-interest rate on a 5-year-term. They can then use that capital to leverage more funding for their business.

This year the SEED loan program has funded the development of 12 new businesses, which are expected to create 44 full-time equivalents (FTE’s) in 2017.

But, what if you’re an existing business that has been around for years, but there is a complex problem that’s slowing down efficiency or scuttling sales? Businesses are turning to another program supported by Enterprise Saint John in partnership with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

ESJ’s Mark Breen started the Catalyst Innovation program as a pilot project in 2015.  In less than 2 years, locally-owned, successful Saint John businesses like Moosehead Breweries Ltd., and Dillon Consulting have used the process. It’s based on Min Bassdur’s, Simplexity approach that helps companies define challenges, find solutions and build out action plans.

“We witnessed Mark facilitate a large group of opinionated business people. He was able to control the situation and herd them, using the Simplexity process, to produce a reasonable and actionable outcome, in less than 2 hours. That alone was impressive, but the quality of ideas that came out of the session was what really struck home with us,” says Jeffrey Earle, a partner with Dillon Consulting Limited.

Last year, Breen helped Dillon employees complete a 3-day training course in the process so they could run the program themselves. They applied parts or all of the system to tackle two complex problems with their clients and internally. But, the proof of how well the process worked was realized when the Dillon Consulting landed a $1-million-dollar contract with one of its core clients.

So, how does this all work out to more jobs? Jobs can come from external companies investing in the region and ESJ is working with its partners at Opportunities New Brunswick to attract them, but that is only 20 percent of growth in a community. 80 percent comes from within a community and in an environment, that supports businesses to help them start, grow and create and retain jobs.

Considering, small businesses make up over 90% of all companies in New Brunswick and employ 35% of workers, this pipeline is a valuable one to support and grow.