Former Dragons’ Den ‘dragon’ Arlene Dickinson is now mentoring small businesses with her new business accelerator District Ventures.
The accelerator gives participants a chance to access advice from all walks of the business life, and they are guided by mentors who have a wealth of experience.
Arlene Dickinson recently told a prominent media organization that there are not enough resources available for small businesses that need help scaling up to expand and that the idea of the accelerator came when she saw a gap in the market.
Startups which have started making some money but need to figure out how to scale up the business are most likely to benefit from District Ventures.”There’s a lot of help in Canada for startups, but there isn’t much help for early stage businesses that have started to get some traction in the marketplace,” Dickinson said.
The accelerator focuses on consumer and packaged goods making it the first one to do so in Canada. While there are others that focus on tech and energy startups it is interesting to see District Ventures’ interest in the consumer market.
District Ventures is based in Calgary, and participants in the program stay for around 6 months. The entrepreneurs who are in the program now will leave by November and new participants will join. The program is open for entrepreneurs across Canada and charges participants around $550 a month for access to office space.
The venture acts as gathering place for entrepreneurs to network and grow their businesses while receiving hands-on assistance and advice from the leaders and mentors.
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Dickinson claims the facility is a non-profit one and that she is not looking to capitalize on the entrepreneurs. “This is a way to try and help these businesses by giving them the supports and services they need so they can build their businesses effectively.” She said.
Entrepreneurs are already reaping the benefits. Jill Hawker of Calgary said she has seen a 68 percent spike in sales of her Peas in a Pod line of baby and maternity products after her mentor at District Ventures introduced her to a distributor. She also had good things to say about meeting like-minded entrepreneurs at the accelerator and how she feels accepted among the like-minded community there.
Small and medium companies are really the backbone of Canada’s economy, Dickinson said. She added that while these companies were not going to provide employment to tens of thousands of people each, they would employ hundreds which would still help to grow the economy in Alberta where many people have lost jobs in the oil and gas sector.
It sure looks like this business accelerator venture capital fund which provides both financial and knowledge-based inputs to smaller companies will certainly make a positive impact in this difficult economic weather.