“I am extremely happy that I participated in that program and I wouldn’t be where I am without it,” said Mann, who is raising a daughter in addition to growing her new business.
Mann is a Medicine Hat College graduate who completed the Summer Company Program at the college’s Entrepreneur Development Centre in addition to earning a diploma in early learning and childcare. The Summer Company Program, sponsored by JMH & Co. assists students with developing a business plan and provides the opportunity to pitch it to a panel of investors. Mann’s business plan won a $10, 000 grant toward her start-up in addition to mentorship, professional services and temporary workspace at the Compass, where she interviewed her first employees.
“When it was time to approach the banks (for a small business loan) I felt prepared,” said Mann, who received a small business loan after presenting her business plan to ATB Financial.
Within months of graduating, Little Owl Childcare Centre was open for business and Mann is looking to expand her services within the first year of operation, requiring her to double the staff of eight. She initially hired six educators, one cook and one administrator.
Medicine Hat not only has educational resources to get start-ups off the ground, it has a supportive business network.
“There’s been a lot of local resources by my side, that’s why I think if I were to operate in Calgary I wouldn’t have that support,” she said, noting her family and friends were close by as she was setting up the business.
Mann said one of the advantages of opening a start-up in Medicine Hat is that everyone seems to know each other.
“I think what’s nice about a small town is that you can have referrals and peace of mind for parents,” said Mann.
An extension of Medicine Hat College’s existing Entrepreneur Development Program, the Alberta Entrepreneurship Incubator Program is expected to be launched in the next two months at Medicine Hat College. The first to be started in Alberta, the program will provide free access to professional business development advisors who can help local entrepreneurs develop new technologies, commercialize new products and nurture their new start-up. The program will also open doors to training, mentorship and tools to access funding.
“We are so pleased that our proposal has been approved, and look forward to taking the next steps to bring this service to our community,” said Tracy Stroud, business development manager at Medicine Hat College. “Supporting innovative and entrepreneurial pursuits is more important than ever, and having an open access, free resource to support these individuals in their efforts is a great way to improve their chances of success.”
Medicine Hat’s Apex Incubator will receive $342,000 during the next two years as part of an Alberta Innovates $10 million two-year pilot program. The government funded incubator program is designed to fund entrepreneur development and mentor support programs in existing or new spaces for business creativity and collaboration.
An entrepreneurship specialist will be hired to provide guidance to individuals who are seeking support.
The program is a partnership between Medicine Hat College, Community Futures Entre Corp and Alberta Innovates, known as the APEX partnership.
Due to new investment in entrepreneurial resources combined with a supportive start-up network, Medicine Hat provides the opportunities for innovative ideas and businesses like Little Owl Learning Centre to start-up and thrive.