Participant Cathy Conrad (left) and Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton flesh out a model business plan with facilitator Andrew Button at the “Mashup Weekend” last Saturday.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Participants had the opportunity to develop their business ideas at last week’s “Mashup Weekend: Oceans Edition,” a business development workshop by Mashup Lab in partnership with Innovacorp and Island Sandbox.

“We help people figure out if there are great businesses to be built around their great ideas,” said Andrew Button, founder and CEO of Mashup Lab.

Button started the Mashup Lab three years ago after seeing similar events in urban centers throughout North America. He wanted to make the sessions accessible to potential entrepreneurs from rural communities in Atlantic Canada, and Nova Scotia in particular.

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Button co-facilitated last weekend’s workshop with Darren MacDonald. MacDonald is the manager of Island Sandbox, an initiative of Cape Breton University and Nova Scotia Community College aimed at helping students launch new businesses.

MacDonald has also been involved with the Start-Up Port Hawkesbury competition, which was launched in July by the town in partnership with Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network. The competition offers community members the opportunity to pitch their business ideas for the chance to win prizes including two years of rent-free space, financing, and marketing assistance.

When Halifax-based Innovacorp expressed interest in holding a workshop to boost interest in their Blue Solutions Start-up Challenge competition set to launch this fall, MacDonald thought Port Hawkesbury would be a good location.

“There’s a lot of buzz going around Start-Up Port Hawkesbury, so this ties in really nicely with what they’re already doing,” said MacDonald.

Most of the participants in the workshop live and work in the Port Hawkesbury area. Among them was Cathy Conrad, a contestant in the Start-up Port Hawkesbury competition. Conrad, who hopes to open an events specialty store, attended the session to get some tips on developing her business model.

During the workshop, participants engaged in a brainstorming session, sharing business ideas centering on the oceans and marine theme. After voting on their favourite ideas, they worked with facilitators to flesh out a more detailed plan, considering as many aspects of the business as possible; including sources of revenue, marketing strategies, and potential partnerships. Ideas discussed during the session ranged from value-added sea products, to a living indigenous history museum on the shores of the Bras d’Or Lake.

The facilitators plan to share the ideas generated during the workshop with the hope that they will help inspire innovation in the wider community.

Button said the collaborative nature of the session encourages participants to network and gain new ideas they may choose to develop in the future. He noted that participants do not need to have an idea for a business in order to contribute.

“People with ideas need a team to help them get that off the ground. If you have any skill set to offer, if you’re a great researcher, if you can make a logo, or you know people in the community that you can call, all those things are valuable assets to have in the room,” said Button.

“People tend to focus on the business ideas and want new businesses to come out of it. That’s great, but for me, the big thing is when I see somebody leave feeling like starting a new business is a possibility for them, and they didn’t feel that way 26 hours ago.”

For information on upcoming Mashup Weekends throughout Nova Scotia, visit: mashuplab.ca. More information on the Start-up Port Hawkesbury competition can be found at: esren.ca.