Darren MacDonald, manager of the business consulting initiative Island Sandbox, coordinated Thursday evening’s workshop for potential entrants in the Start-Up Port Hawkesbury contest that is co-sponsored by the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network and the Town of Port Hawkesbury. The competition’s grand prize winner will receive, among other things, two years’ worth of rent-free space from the town in order to get their business off the ground.

PORT HAWKESBURY: With a business consultant guiding them through the creative process and giving tips for their pitches, workshops got under way last week for potential entrants in a forthcoming contest designed to encourage the next wave of local small business owners.

Start-up Port Hawkesbury, a joint venture of the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) and the Town of Port Hawkesbury, is encouraging participants to prepare a 90-second pitch for a start-up business that will be made to a panel of judges this fall, in a style similar to the CBC series Dragon’s Den and the ABC series Shark Tank.

The winner will receive two years of rent-free space in the town, pre-qualify for a $20,000 business loan from InRich Business Development Centre Limted, receive pro-bono services from EMM Law, get graphic design services from Sara Rankin Design, secure a one-year paid membership in the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce (SACoC), and get ongoing support and training from the chamber, ESREN and other partners.

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To that end, the project’s partners launched a series of workshops designed to stir the creative process and get potential Start-up Port Hawkesbury contestants to visualize their new business ventures, last Thursday evening at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Shannon Studio. The first workshop’s leader was Darren MacDonald, manager of Island Sandbox, a business incubator co-sponsored by the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area and Marconi campuses and Cape Breton University (CBU).

“What is the sandbox? It’s a safe place to come and play,” said MacDonald, who chastised a business culture that has scared off many would-be entrepreneurs by instilling a fear of failure.

“When people fail, we do some weird things – we shun them, we criticize them, and all this stuff. There are places where, if your company goes under and you’re the founder, they have an Irish wake for you…Boulder, Colorado does that, and they have a real start-up community. If you go under, they console you, they help you through that dark period.”

With this in mind, MacDonald urged the 30 people in attendance at Thursday’s Start-up Port Hawkesbury workshop to place a higher priority on filling a need within a community than clinging to a single business concept

“Too many people that I work with just love their ideas so much,” MacDonald remarked.

“So many people are passionate about their idea, their baby – they don’t want to let it go, and it’s really bad when someone calls the baby ugly…It’s important that you’re not attached to the solution – you should be in love with the problem or the opportunity that you’re chasing, but never, ever the means by which you’re going to solve that problem.”

Photo by Adam Cooke
Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton (right) looks on as Misty MacDonald, Start-Up Port Hawkesbury project lead for the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network, welcomes aspiring entrepreneurs to a workshop held on Thursday evening at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Shannon Studio. The event was designed to help the contest’s potential entrants craft their pitches for new small businesses within the town boundaries.

ESREN project lead Misty MacDonald, who welcomed attendees to Thursday’s event, confirmed that more workshops will take place in the run-up to Start-up Port Hawkesbury.

“We don’t have the dates yet, but they’ll deal a little bit more with business planning and business skills,” MacDonald promised.

For more information, visit the Web link: www.esren.ca/start-up-port-hawkesbury, e-mail: startup@esren.ca, or call: (902) 623-2780.