In 2016, the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Business Advisory Centre ran a pilot program called BLAST Start-Up Grant, aimed at providing local skilled trades and professional service entrepreneurs over the age of 30 with assistance, support, and training needed to make their business a success. As part of this program, 16 micro-grants of $5000 were awarded to the Top 16 participants.
We chatted with five local business owners who participated in this program to hear their thoughts, experiences, and reflections on the 5 years since the BLAST 2016 program.
Dennis Jenkins – Northern Designs
Since participating in the BLAST Start-Up Grant program in 2016, Dennis has continued to grow and expand Northern Designs to become a successful local home builder in the local area. Created in 2001, Dennis participated in the 2016 Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development BLAST Start-Up Grant program to help boost his business profile and expand his service offerings. Now, almost five years later, Northern Designs offers Architectural Design and Planning, HVAC Design and Planning and Energy Advising, and Building Diagnostics services.
When asked about his experience as an entrepreneur in the Peterborough & the Kawarthas community, Dennis was humble about his company’s role in his clients’ lives.
Our clients trust us to create the home they live in,” he says. “It’s a great honour and responsibility that we do not take lightly. We have grown and expanded our services to help streamline the building and remodeling processes for our clients, instead of them having to source and manage other vendors or companies.”
When asked about his experience in the BLAST Start-Up Grant program, Dennis highlighted the network-building opportunities for business owners through the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development programs. To him, the networking and relationship-building element of the programs is genuinely invaluable for business owners in an industry.
“Yes, learning to do market research and building a business plan is important, but what I really find the most valuable part of these programs is the chance to connect with other business owners in our local area, “ says Dennis. “Their insights, perspectives and maybe future referrals is really what makes our community so unique and supportive.”
As a grant recipient in 2016, Dennis used his grant funds to help expand Northern Designs’ business offerings, including updating their website and purchasing equipment.
To find out more about Northern Designs, visit their website at northerndesigns.biz.
Jennifer Garland – Mane Intent
In the last five years, Jennifer Garland’s business, The Mane Intent, has grown and evolved dramatically. Keeping the original ethos of her business idea, Jennifer expanded her services to include more comprehensive therapy packages for individuals, children, families, and groups.
In Jennifer’s words, The Mane Intent is a “psychotherapy and equine-assisted therapy centre specializing in teaching confidence, resilience, self-awareness, team-building and leadership development. Working with individuals, families, and groups, Jennifer’s mission is to help her clients live a happier and healthier life.
“I created Mane Intent in 2014 after purchasing my first horse Sunny in 2011,” explains Jennifer. “I have always loved horses, but when I found Sunny, I truly understood the power and opportunities that come with working with horses. They truly are a natural reflection of ourselves, and that bond can be incredibly powerful for some.”
Since participating in the 2016 BLAST Start-Up Grant program, Jennifer has continued to expand The Mane Intent and work specifically on more therapeutic research with other local community groups. The Mane Intent has also partnered with the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre and Trent University to help young women process their experiences dealing with interpersonal trauma. Recently, Jennifer and her team have published the results from this study and have incorporated these practices into a program guide for The Mane Intent.
In addition to growing The Mane Intent, Jennifer has also recently received her Masters in Counselling Psychology and is now a Registered Psychotherapist in the province of Ontario.
For Jennifer, these opportunities have only been made possible through support from Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development and the BLAST Start-Up Grant program.
“I am incredibly grateful for our community and their support in facilitating therapeutic change through equine-assisted therapy,” says Jennifer. “Many people are scared of horses for various reasons, but what they don’t understand is that horses are gentle, curious beings that experience emotions just as we do. For many of our clients, there is an unexpected connection between them and a horse which creates an opportunity to be open to change. A relationship with a horse can invite us to go to places we don’t always want to go in a gentle, affirming way.”
For more information about The Mane Intent and its services, visit their website at themaneintent.ca.
Kerry Jayne McMaster – Revive Hair Lounge
For owner Kerry Jayne McMaster, creating a local, sustainable hair salon was a dream she had throughout her career. “I remember working at other salons and the waste was incredible,” she says. “Just the nature of the industry can be very unsustainable if we don’t take special care to choose products that are good for our clients and the earth.”
After graduating from the Blast Start-Up Grant program in 2016, Kerry Jayne went on to realize her dream. Revive Hair Lounge is a forward-thinking salon based in Peterborough that focuses on high-quality, sustainable products. Revive’s mission is to provide high-quality service that is trendy and modern while prioritizing earth-friendly products and practices. At Revive, all materials, even shorn hair, are recycled.
When asked about her experience in the BLAST Start-Up Grant, Kerry Jayne emphasized the importance of learning to create a proper business plan.
“The opportunity to learn and review the basics about business planning was incredible for me as a business owner. No plan is ever perfect but we followed our BLAST Business Plan to a tee in our first two years of business. Without that roadmap, I am not sure we would have grown as much as we have these last five years.”
For more information on Revive Hair Lounge, visit their Facebook page at Revive Hair Lounge Facebook Page
Diane Rogers – Doo Doo’s Bakery
Prior to starting the BLAST Start-Up program in 2016, Doo Doo’s Bakery was a small multi-generation family establishment servicing the local market. For owner Diane Rogers, expanding their business reach with the BLAST program was a blessing in more ways than one.
“What really prompted me to apply for the program was the opportunity to source funds to help expand our online presence and eCommerce capabilities, which we did,” she explains. “This was an incredible gift when the pandemic hit in March 2020 because we were already operational and ready to shift to the world of delivery and social distancing.”
Today, Doo Doo’s Bakery still retains that commitment to quality and home-baked goodness without losing any of its charm. Their products are available for shipping Canada-wide and in-store, curbside pickup, and local delivery. For Diane and her family, growing their family-owned business of over 70 years takes time, patience, and support from the local community.
With their ever-expanding menu and home-baked delicacies, Diane is excited about what the future has in store for her and the bakery. “I would highly recommend PKED’s programs to any current or budding entrepreneur,” says Diane. “Even now when I think about new business ideas, I always go back to the fundamentals I learned in the program and the model they taught me to be successful.”
I was so grateful for the tangible lessons I learned,” says Diane. “Learning to develop a business plan, having access to grant funding and connecting with other local entrepreneurs was truly a game-changer for our business.”
For more information on Doo Doo’s Bakery and to order some of their sweet treats, visit their website at Doo Doo’s Bakery
Amber McRae – Muddy Girl
For Amber, establishing her business was just as much about providing a service as it was proving women deserve a place in the trades. “I hear comments all the time from my clients about how great it is to see a woman doing this line of work,” says Amber. “I love what I do and being able to meet different people in our community is really the true reward.”
Amber’s business Muddy Girl specializes in taping for drywall, plaster repair, popcorn ceiling removal, drywall repair, and interior painting. After participating in the BLAST Start-Up program in 2016, Amber was able to expand Muddy Girl and continue to do the work she loves. “I get to meet the most amazing people every day through my work,” says Amber. “That is really the element of the business that I don’t think many people consider; all the kind, generous people I meet and the incredible conversations we have.”
When asked about her experience in the Blast Start-Up program, Amber again emphasizes the importance of relationships.
I learned a lot through the program,” explains Amber. “But what I really took away from it were the perspectives and opportunities to connect with other entrepreneurs. We really all were just trying our best; trying to build something that we had dreamt about.”
For Amber, owning her own business has gifted her the flexibility to balance work and time with her daughter. “I am happy to share my time with her,” explains Amber. “I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to balance growing my business with spending time with my daughter.”
For more information on Muddy Girl, visit their Facebook page at Muddy Girl Taping.
To learn more
While the BLAST Start-Up Grant program is no longer available, the Business Advisory Centre is on hand to provide training, support and resources to all local businesses in Peterborough & the Kawarthas. To learn more about new programs and learning opportunities, visit our website at PeterboroughED.ca