“Ask, Ask, Partner” Suggest Sudbury Entrepreneurs
Small business owners share the highs and lows of starting a business during Innovation for Greater Sudbury 2022
Nearly a decade after coming up with the idea for a unique device to help stroke patients regain hand function, Vineet Johnson is finally bringing their product closer to market.
In 2013, the Sudbury physiotherapist and neuroscientist created MyHand, which guides users through a series of exercises designed to stimulate new pathways in the brain.
Clinician and hospital versions are already available, and Johnson and his team of I recovered are now raising funds so they can bring a commercial iteration to market.
But it’s been a long road to get there.
“Today, we are a company that has gone through enormous difficulties. The ups and downs are normal, and it’s a daily process,” Johnson said during a virtual presentation Jan. 19. “So understand that you’re going to have issues, but also understand that you have phenomenal partners. .
These partners include NORCATthe Sudbury innovation hub that accepted iRegained into its 2019 Pitch competition, where the company won the Judges’ Choice award and secured $250,000 in seed funding.
Along with a dozen other organizations and funding agencies, they form Sudbury’s Startup Ecosystem, all of which work together to help new entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life.
“It’s this company, it’s this infrastructure and this ecosystem that allows a company like iRegained, which relies heavily on these resources, to thrive,” Johnson said.
“Don’t survive – thrive.”
Johnson shared his experience at this year’s Innovation for a Greater Sudbury, hosted annually by The Foundry, which showcases examples of innovation and entrepreneurship across the city.
This year’s event focused on the services and support available through the city’s growing business startup ecosystem.
To find the right organizations that can help, Alicia Woods suggested entrepreneurs “reach out, ask, inquire, partner and collaborate.”
That’s how she started in 2013 when she launched Mange coversa company that designs and markets industrial workwear specially designed for female morphology.
Inspired by her own experience working underground in the mines, Woods knew that women needed well-fitting suits to be able to work in a safer, more comfortable and with better functionality.
“I had the opportunity to work with all these great organizations and companies and they really helped me in the beginning because you have an idea, but what do you do with that idea? Where (do you start)? Woods said.
“And here in Sudbury, we are fortunate to have so many different organizations that are here to support you. »
Working with Cambrian College’s internship program, Woods recruited business and marketing students who offered their knowledge and assistance while gaining hands-on work experience. NORCAT, meanwhile, has taken suits for use in its test mine at Onaping.
A great leap forward occurred when a nickel miner Valley signed as a partner, allowing employees to test and try the garment to ensure it meets industry safety requirements. The company then ordered 50 pairs of Covergalls for its staff at the Voisey’s Bay mine in Labrador.
When business slowed at the onset of COVID-19, Woods realized she had to be flexible to keep her business going.
So she partnered with local seamstresses to produce cloth masks, then donated the proceeds from the sales to local long-term care facilities, which used the money to procure personal protective equipment (PPE ).
“That’s when I realized the importance of supporting the local community,” she said. “As organizations and as businesses, we must do our part to support each other, whether that means purchasing goods or services from businesses here in the region.”
Much of this support system was not yet in place when Gus Minor started building sofie.
The company’s software aggregates data collected across an organization, and the resulting analytics can be used to minimize risk, making workplaces safer.
Minor felt compelled to create the technology following the deaths of loved ones from occupational hazards in the mining industry.
“The ecosystem that is now available in Sudbury is great,” said Minor.
“If you had asked me 20 years ago if this was a place to start a business, I probably would have advised otherwise. Especially in tech, to me it’s either you create your opportunity or you go,” he added.
“It’s very refreshing today to see that there are so many opportunities with businesses starting up in Sudbury.
Since then, it has tapped into the ecosystem to access funding, build industry partnerships and meet workforce needs.
Minor estimates that Cambrian College and Laurentian University provided 90% of Sofvie’s workforce, many of whom started out as students.
The use of locally developed talent has not only allowed the company to “get started on track”, he said, but also provides graduates with job opportunities after graduation.
He remains optimistic about Sudbury’s future as a business-friendly city that values entrepreneurship and puts resources in place to properly support local startups.
“When it comes to building something new and presenting it to the world, this is the place to do it,” he said.
“And I think with the momentum we’re building now, we have a very bright future ahead of us to make Sudbury something beyond mining.