The contestants in the Start-up Port Hawkesbury event were judged by local business leaders, (from the left): Wayne MacKay of Canso Ford, Tracey Cummings of Subway and Celtic Sisters Gifts, and Danielle MacDonald of Tim Hortons.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Local entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to a live panel of judges last Thursday night, and three were selected to move on the final round of judging on November 23.

Thursday’s event was the second round of judging in the Start-up Port Hawkesbury Competition, which was organized by the Eastern-Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN), in partnership with other community groups. The idea behind the competition was to stimulate local entrepreneurship.

Thursday’s event was open to the public, and contestants had two minutes to present their business plans before they were questioned by a Dragons’ Den-style panel of judges. Out of the nine businesses pitched that night, Proud Maritimer Marketing, Island Enigmas Escape Room, and That Doggy Place Doggy Daycare were selected to move on the final round of judging. The winner will receive two years of rent-free office space, a $20,000 business loan, pro-bono legal services, and other supports provided by local community partners.

Photo by Melanie Holder
Trudy Muggah brought her experience preparing healthy food to her business Trudy’s Holistic Nutrition.

“Ever since we heard about the contest, we knew that it was a great opportunity, not just to win the prize, but for community members to get exposed to what it’s like to be an entrepreneur,” said Jude Long, who developed the idea for Proud Maritimer Marketing along with Waddie Long, Max Long, and Jason Horton. “We’re proud of ourselves, we’re proud of our town for doing this, and we’re proud of the Maritimes.”

Liam Brophy of Island Enigmas is also excited that he is now one step closer to making his escape room and game shop a reality.

“It means the world. I grew up here in Port Hawkesbury. I’m really excited to try and create a business here that I would love to have seen growing up,” said Brophy.

Michele Tabensky, who submitted her pitch on video, is the entrepreneur behind That Dog Place Doggy Daycare. She hopes her business will provide a much needed service for busy dog owners in the Strait region.

Photo by Melanie Holder
Christine LaFosse MacDonald pitched the idea to open Hawk’s Haven Campground in Port Hawkesbury.

Misty MacDonald, Economic Development Officer for ESREN is heading up the Start-up Port Hawkesbury project. She said she is pleased to see the level of involvement the contest has inspired in the community.

“We’re really happy with the response we’ve gotten, not only within the town, but also provincially, and now extra-provincially,” said MacDonald. “We’re hearing that people in other provinces are actually watching to see how this is going to go and thinking about spinning the idea themselves.”

MacDonald said that she has received strong support from community partners, including the Town of Port Hawkesbury, InRich CBDC, the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, Evans MacIsaac & MacMillan Law, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

“We’ve had a lot of individuals… who are generally just really supportive and excited about the project, so we really appreciate it,” said MacDonald.

Photo by Melanie Holder
Jessica Forgeron pitched her business, Jack’s Cleaning and Property Management.

All contestants will be invited back to attend the finale, along with members of the public and municipal leaders.

“Contestants will have to have a full business plan prepared and submitted to the judges ahead of time… In the meantime, we’re going to have some workshops and we will work directly with them,” said MacDonald. “We’re really excited to see how it will all turn out.”

Photo by Melanie Holder
Three potential businesses were selected to move on to the final round of the competition. Finalists included Waddie Long (left), Jason Horton, and Jude Long of Proud Maritimer Marketing, and Liam Brophy of Island Enigmas Escape Room. Also moving to the next round is Michele Tabensky of That Dog Place Doggy Daycare (not pictured).