Michelle Tabensky of That Dog Place was announced as the winner of the Start-Up Port Hawkesbury competition at Thursday night’s finale. She is seen here with John Beaton, CEO of Eastert-Strait Regional Enterprise Network (left), and Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton (right).

PORT HAWKESBURY: A local woman has transformed her love of animals into a solid business plan.

Michelle Tabensky of That Dog Place Doggy Daycare was announced as the winner of the Start-Up Port Hawkesbury competition at last Thursday night’s finale. The Dragon’s Den-style contest was organized by the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN), in partnership with the Town of Port Hawkesbury, to foster entrepreneurship in the community.

Photo by Melanie Holder
The final contestants in the Start-Up Port Hawkesbury competition presented their business plans to a panel of five judges. The judges included (from the left): Senator Dan Christmas of Membertou, Tracey Cummings of Subway and Celtic Sisters Gifts, Wayne MacKay of Canso Ford, Danielle MacDonald of Tim Hortons, and Tareq Hadhad of Peace by Chocolate.

“I’m pretty happy, and I’m glad everybody has confidence in me,” said Tabensky, who plans to begin construction on her new business sometime in the spring or summer.

On Thursday night, Tabensky had the final opportunity to present her business plan in front of a panel of judges. Her prize package will include two years of rent free space, pro-bono legal services, and pre-qualifying for a $20,000 business loan.

“It was great to work with the different partnerships. The ESREN group was a great support. They were always there if you needed any help with any questions,” said Tabensky.

Tabensky, who owns four dogs, often has difficulty finding someone to care for her animals. She says that she had been thinking about opening a dog care business for a long time and already had the name picked out.

“We need one because there’s no place for people to keep their dogs when they go away,” said Tabensky. “So it’s been in the works for a while, and this was the greatest opportunity to start it out.”

Photo by Melanie Holder
Liam Brophy was one of the three finalists to pitch business ideas at the finale of the Start-Up Port Hawkesbury competition on Thursday night. He presented his business plan for Island Enigmas, an escape room experience and game shop.

That Dog Place was one of three potential start-ups to make it to Thursday’s finale out of a total of 20 submissions. Finalist Liam Brophy also pitched his plan to open Island Enigmas, which includes two escape rooms and a retail game shop. Brophy expressed gratitude to the town, as well as everyone who supported him.

“I gained tons of experience. I didn’t know a whole lot about owning or running a small business to begin with, so all the help that I got from ESREN and InRich… was just invaluable,” said Brophy, who is keeping his options open.

“I’ve come a long way and made an entire business plan. I have everything ready to go, so there’s still a definite possibility we could open. We’ll see what happens in the future.”

Photo by Melanie Holder
Finalists Jason Horton (left), Waddie Long, and Jude Long, made it to the finale with their business plan for Proud Maritimer Marketing.

Waddie Long, Jude Long, and Jason Horton also presented their marketing and apparel business, Proud Maritimer Marketing. They announced that they would be withdrawing their business from the running.

“It’s an impressive prize package, but we don’t really need it to launch,” said Long, adding that he wanted to see two new businesses launch as a result of the competition. “This is what we want to do, help communities and help other businesses.”

Long said that the business is currently working on a Web site that will offer Proud Maritimer products, as well as those of other Maritime businesses.

Photo by Melanie Holder
Senator Dan Christmas of Membertou gave the keynote address at the One Cape Breton Future Forward Leaders Summit on Thursday. Later in the evening, he served as one of the judges for the Start-Up Port Hawkesbury competition.

The finale took place as Port Hawkesbury was hosting the “One Cape Breton: Future Forward Leaders Summit,” and municipal and First Nations leaders throughout the island were in attendance. Judges included Tracey Cummings of Subway and Celtic Sisters Gifts, Wayne MacKay of Canso Ford, Danielle MacDonald of Tim Hortons, Senator Dan Christmas from Membertou, and Tareq Hadhad of Peace by Chocolate.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said that she was pleased with the response to the competition.

“I really do feel like the contest can be packaged and offered to other communities to help cultivate a business start-up culture,” said Chisholm-Beaton. “What we have is local people doing local, grass roots initiatives that are going to build our economy one block at a time.”

Photo by Melanie Holder
– Tareq Hadhad of Antigonish-based company Peace by Chocolate lent his business expertise to the judges’ panel for the finale of Start-Up Port Hawkesbury.