ST. PETER’S: Entrepreneurs were given the chance to pitch their ideas as part of a program to spur business development in rural Nova Scotia.

On August 29 at the St. Peter’s Marina, the Cape Breton Partnership and Mashup Labs came together to host Mashup Lab Dream Business Pitch Night to hear from new entrepreneurs who successfully completed the first phase of the Mashup Lab Dream Business program.

Carla Arsenault, President and CEO of the Cape Breton Partnership explained this was the fourth pitch night they hosted across the island over the past year.

“We have five entrepreneurs that were pitching,” Arsenault said. “Four were from Cape Breton and one was from the Antigonish cohort.

“There were some incredible ideas, very well polished pitches, and I think it signifies that the future bodes well for the future of entrepreneurship here on the island.”

Contributed photos — Andrew Button, Mashup Lab, introduces attendees at the 3rd Cape Breton Pitch Night to the Dream Business Program and the newest five entrepreneurs to participate in the program.

Mashup Lab, a Bridgewater-based organization that supports rural entrepreneurs, teamed up with the Cape Breton Partnership in 2018 to bring the Mashup Lab Dream Business Program to the island. The program works with people from rural communities across the province and takes them through a six-month boot camp, a mentorship program and provides a start-up kit that helps them develop their idea into a viable business. Funding for the program was provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Business.

Arsenault said the program can help overcome regional barriers on the island because it is on-line and updated weekly.

“These programs are open to people across Cape Breton, it’s open for anyone who’s interested, regardless of where you live on the island,” Arsenault noted. “The sessions are virtual and the pitch nights, the location changes across the island.

Once entrepreneurs are deemed ready after a three month period working with Mashup Labs, they can participate in pitch night or take part when they are ready.

“We have 10 people participating in the session, the hope is to keep all 10 through to the end, but we understand with scheduling,” Arsenault said. “If somebody can’t make the first one then they can catch up with another group.”

Mickey Freeman, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Officer with the Cape Breton Partnership’s Creative Island Initiative, presents the Dream Business Program.

The Mashup Lab Dream Business Program is part of the Creative Island initiative. Launched by the Cape Breton Partnership in 2018, Creative Island is a movement to foster creative courage and attract and keep creative people in Cape Breton, grow and celebrate a culture that clues creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, and increase the ability of entrepreneurs, inventors, makers, creators, and companies to more innovative.

“When we launched this program last year, it was about providing opportunities for existing or potential entrepreneurs in Cape Breton to have access to the training and coaching they would need to bring their business idea to the next level,” Arsenault explained.

To date, there have been 11 Mashup Lab Dream Business Program cohorts and over 110 graduates of the Mashup Lab Dream Business Program across Nova Scotia.

Over the next year, the Mashup Lab Dream Business Program will run three additional programs across the island, at no cost to participants. This translates to potentially 30 new business start-ups. The next Cape Breton Dream Business Program will kick-off on September 12 and is still accepting applications at:

“We will be looking to fill 10 spots in the program and really it’s about encouraging a dialogue of entrepreneurship, providing opportunity for people who have an idea they would like to take further and providing access for people to the type of entrepreneurship programming you only see in the big cities,” Arsenault said.

The current five participating entrepreneurs of this cohort of the Dream Business program are (from the left): Belinda MacNeil, Beth Schumacher, Blake Riley, Jennifer Drummond, and Wendy Johnston.