Durham celebrates innovative entrepreneurs

Photo by Matthew Pellerin

Teresa Shaver, of the BACD, was on hand to help out local entrepreneurs.

As you enter Durham Region, there is a sign with the region’s motto: A great place to grow. This slogan can apply to many things: families, flowers – and start-up businesses.

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Durham Region recently hosted ‘Do It in Durham’ events to highlight innovation in the region, including one at the Oshawa Public Library called ‘Start Me Up’.

The Business Advisory Council of Durham was on site as a source of guidance and support for local entrepreneurs. . The council’s executive director, Teresa Shaver, gave local business people advice and guidance on starting and growing their companies.

“I think the scene is very bright for entrepreneurs,” says Shaver. “Now, more than ever, it’s quite easy to start your own business.”

The BACD isn’t the only tool at the disposal of eager entrepreneurs. The Spark Centre in Oshawa also helps local start-ups and serves as a collaborative learning and working stage for them every step of the way.

Spark Centre assists with everything from funding support to providing a communal outlet for networking and collaboration.

Greg Barnes’ smart-watch company, Henlen Watches, received funding help and a bit of guidance from Spark Centre. Specialized support came in many forms – from networking and assistance creating a business plan, to an ‘entrepreneurship boot camp’ where Henlen Watches went from a dream to a reality.

“These places, they offer guidance for entrepreneurs and help you develop your business,” says Barnes. “Things that you might not be able to do on your own, or if you did, they’d be a struggle.”

One of the challenges facing Barnes and other entrepreneurs is getting products seen in a sea of competition and big businesses.

The solution to that problem, says Barnes, is the same thing that makes farmer’s markets successful – community support.

“People want to see products coming locally and support those people because they’re just like them – they’re local,” he says.

Teresa Shaver agrees with Barnes and goes a step further with another piece of advice for entrepreneurs.

“You need to be different. You need to show that you’re different,” says Shaver. “I think a lot of people today do want to support local businesses. I think there’s a lot of opportunity.”