Setting up businesses with resources and partners in the Hamilton entrepreneurial ecosystem

By Elizabeth Thorsen

Imagine you have an idea for a brand new business, and it’s a good one – a game changer. You spend months researching the market, planning your business strategy, building a team around you to succeed, and after all that you finally launch and cross your fingers that your clients like what you’re selling. And guess what – they do! You’re reaching your sales targets, growing your team, and enjoying the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.

But what about all the other details that go into running a business that might be less familiar, like making sure your service agreements are iron-clad? Filing your business taxes for the first time? Building a marketing strategy or a sales pipeline? For many startup businesses, these seemingly small details can be overwhelming, both in terms of lacking the basic knowledge to do it themselves, and lacking the capital to invest in a community expert to help them out. So what can small business owners and entrepreneurs do to help bridge that gap? Well if you’re in Hamilton, you’re lucky! We are a community that binds together to support our own, and that doesn’t just apply to individuals – big businesses are coming together to support the next generation, and help them find the tools and services necessary for businesses to succeed.

One of the best examples of this is through the Lion’s Lair competition. Founded 7 years ago through the Innovation Factory and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, this ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch competition brings 10 startup companies together, and helps to accelerate their businesses by setting them up with resources and partners in the Hamilton entrepreneurial ecosystem. Everyone knows that capital is essential to start up a business, but in-kind resources are just as important to achieving success, and this year’s Lion’s Lair prize pool boasts an impressive $180,000+ awarded to the top 10 startups.

2017 Lions Ruth Todd (KPMG), Julie Ellis (Mabels Labels), Michael Macaluso (Carstar) & Dilys DeCruz preparing for a day full of pitches from the top 10 finalists. Pitches were filmed in August, and the winners announced live at the gala September 27th.

This year’s grand prize winner, Aiva Labs has created a digital tool helping businesses increase their web engagement by building overlay campaigns. Second prize winner, Oneiric Hockey developed an innovative, patented, protective base layer apparel for hockey players that allows them to get dressed faster, and provides additional safety features. Third prize winner, Lumago is trying to revolutionize the agricultural industry in Canada with their customizable, expandable, and fully automated aquaponics system for better greenhouse farming, and environmental sustainability. And The Hamilton Award Winner, Dolled Up Desserts is committed to satisfying Hamilton’s sweet tooth, as a gluten-free, vegan baking manufacturer, providing baked goods to local cafes, and a line of dry-mixes to over 40 retailers.

Runners up included BridesMade, DashMD, Gene Blueprint, HealthyPets.io, HiNT, and Nanophyll.

One of Lion’s Lair competition partners since its inception is KPMG. Ruth Todd, Partner, KPMG Enterprise and Office Managing Partner, Hamilton and St. Catharine’s, and one of this year’s Lion’s, talks about their longstanding partnership with Innovation Factory, and their support of the competition.

“LiON’S LAIR is a great program that fosters and celebrates entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do and what they have created. It’s a natural fit for our firm. It is such an impressive event that shows how strong and committed the business community is to the future of Hamilton and the next generation of entrepreneurs. When we support entrepreneurs, we all win.”

KPMG generously sponsors a cash prize, as well as a $25,000 in-kind prize towards their services.

Adnan Somani and Sarosha Imtiaz, co-founders of Hamilton based AIVA Labs, the 2017 Lion’s Lair Grande Prize Winners

“On top of taxes, we would like to file for the SR&ED tax rebate, as much of our research in both the industrial and lobby-ponics qualifies under this program, however we don’t have the skills or expertise to easily navigate this system“ says Lumago CEO, Melissa Houghton. Lumago is the winner of the KPMG package, which will be essential in closing off their first year of revenue.

Orbital, a Hamilton based digital agency is one of the new partners for 2017’s Lion’s Lair competition. They offer a variety of digital services for all sorts of budgets, including startup and large corporate clients.

“The amazing work done by LiON’s LAIR and Innovation Factory, aligns very closely with our own philosophy. We are big believers that a community thrives when its members build each other up and support each other. What’s good for one of us, more often than not, means good for all. It’s exciting to see people in your community succeed – in a way, you almost feel like you’re sharing it with each other. We’re all in this together.” says Nick Tomkin, Director at Orbital.

Kayla Neon from Oneiric hockey is excited by the idea of working with Orbital. “With the Lion’s Lair prize package we believe we can hit our 2017 goals much quicker” says Kayla. “The web design will help push our online marketing efforts” and “we’ll be able to drive earlier commitments from our retail partners in 2017, which in turn will increase our volumes in 2018.”

And of course, with the added influx of capital, businesses can stay and grow in Hamilton. Aiva Labs co-founder Adnan Somani says “The [$20,000] in cash can really help us grow our in-house sales and advertising efforts”. “We’re looking to hire an experienced sales rep to join the AIVA team” he says, “so far the marketing and sales team is just us, and we need some help”.

If you missed this year’s gala on September 27th at Carmen’s Banquet Centre, you can watch it in full on cable14now.com.