If you’re a budding entrepreneur or involved with us here at Innovation Factory, then you may have heard about the MaRS-run Entrepreneur’s Toolkit program we offer.
The set of workshops is run three times a year as an Intensive Program, and it’s a great opportunity for highly motivated entrepreneurs to take their startups or small-medium enterprises (SMEs) to the next level.
The program has become popular as a bootcamp for innovators, but we wondered what they had to say about it. Do early-stage entrepreneurs get value from the workshops? What does the program bring to SMEs looking to innovate?
We chatted with three of our Entrepreneur’s Toolkit alumni to find out!
Brandon Aubie is Founder & CEO of QReserve, a public database of research equipment and services, encouraging the use of available resources and helping universities and colleges catalogue their tools and services.
QReserve has been gaining significant traction and success recently, but Brandon signed up for Entrepreneur’s Toolkit when it was in its early stages. He found the workshops extremely beneficial as a launch pad for starting his venture.
Brandon knew what he was doing with QReserve from a technical standpoint, but had a feeling there was quite a bit more to entrepreneurship that he needed to learn. “It turned out there was a lot I just didn’t know,” he says. “I learned a great deal about essentials like financial forecasts and now rely on these spreadsheets almost daily.”
The program also forced him to re-evaluate his value proposition and business model multiple times for fine-tuning. “As a result, I ended up pivoting during the course and now have a much easier time enacting changes to my model if it best suits the business,” he explains. “I left the workshops with a clearer sense of what my business actually is.”
Dillon Mulcahy was in a similar situation to Brandon’s when he signed up for the program, with the idea for of a startup in the making. He then pivoted to an entirely different idea that is now generating substantial buzz: a Google Glass app called Names that assists with networking and contact management, of which Dillon is Co-founder.
He accredits much of this shift into the wearable tech space to his experience with the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Workshops.
“I think that this course should be mandatory for any entrepreneur regardless of their experience level,” says Dillon. “It offers extremely useful tools and guidance, which ultimately helped me think more analytically and alter my business strategy.”
Though early-stage innovators like Brandon and Dillon visibly take value from the program, we’ve found that SMEs – though already established businesses – can, too, gain a great deal of valuable insight from the workshops.
Emily Nichols is an engineer at ProSensus, a SME that helps manufacturers develop new, quality products faster by leveraging valuable insights from big data.
She was introduced to Innovation Factory after trying her hand at entrepreneurship during Startup Weekend Hamilton. Her team won Startup Weekend and was offered a seat in the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit program. Throughout the workshops, Emily found that she could apply much of her learnings to her work at ProSensus.
In addition to the course helping her revisit basics like finance and the value proposition for a business, Emily found the marketing component boosted her ability to pitch what ProSensus does with ease and clarity.
“Our work at ProSensus strongly focuses on multivariate analysis,” explains Emily, “which can be difficult to explain to those outside our field. The program was great for helping us clarify our various businesses in layman’s terms, but also frame them in a way to get outsiders excited about our ideas.”
Emily found her fellow classmates in the cohort beneficial as a test audience for her pitch, but they also became tight-knit outside of the workshops. “Most of us have kept in touch and update one another on successes in our own ventures,” she says. “It’s nice have a support system of people who have been through the process with you!”
Our next Entrepreneur’s Toolkit program will be running from January 9 – April 17, 2015 as a Winter Intensive. Learn more or register here!