Kickstart: A Grassroots Approach to Entrepreneur Development


kickstartbusinessWritten by Joanna Killen

For the last three years, a group of 12-15 budding entrepreneurs have been gathering every fall for 12 weeks to participate in Enterprise Saint John’s Kickstart your Business Course.

The participants are folks who are newly in business as well as people who want to become armed with knowledge before even beginning to look at starting a business.

Enterprise Saint John collects volunteer experts from across the community to come and present, give feedback and to offer mentorship to the Kickers every Wednesday night from 6-9 pm. The group meets in the Vennture Garage located inside Connexion Works on the 3rd Floor of the Bell Aliant building. The experts are lawyers, insurance brokers, bankers, social media experts, marketing and sales gurus – all VERY busy people. However, each and every one of our advisors is over the moon to contribute and help out our motivated group of Kickers.

This approach to supporting newly launched businesses was born from the idea that collaboration leads to growth. Our group this year consists of designers, photographers, property managers, food truck enthusiasts and apparel designers, just to name a few. Despite this group being so incredibly varied, they are all in the exact same boat so benefit from each other’s experiences and talents. The early stages of entrepreneurial adventures can be an extremely busy and lonely time. People often think you are crazy, ESPECIALLY for wanting to do business in Saint John.

Our Kickers are together not only to learn from ESJ advisors, but to learn from each other. In night one, one Kicker offered another Kicker free web design services to help the other get their website off the ground. The mutually beneficial relationship of the web developer getting to build his skills and the team’s development of their online branding would not have come about unless these three were in the same room and got to talkin’.

kickstartbusiness1This new relationship happened on the first night so I can’t even begin to imagine the other natural relationships that are going to blossom with this group. In my role as an Entrepreneur Development Officer, I have come to know each and every one of our Kickers. The one thing they all have in common is they see Saint John as a place they want to build and grow a business. They see through the haze of negativity that often surrounds our city and want to defy the odds to make it a better place with their unique vision, special product or awesome idea.

With their passion for business, our wonderful Port City and the openness to learn from those wiser than themselves, I can only see a positive outcome from our Kickers. With a bit of organization, willingness from our advisors and Kickers, we could be looking at 10 brand new businesses in operation in the next 1-2 years. Giving our community the opportunity to learn and grow from each other is about as grassroots as it gets when it comes to economic development ‘strategy’.

Here’s to the movers and shakers wanting to make Saint John a better place.

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