Innovation Guelph (IG) is continuing their focus on supporting women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses in Canada. With MP Lloyd Longfield’s recent announcement of $1.8 million dollars to bolster those efforts through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy program, Innovation Guelph’s Rhyze™ Ventures program will accelerate a wide range of women-led businesses in southwestern Ontario by combining learning, doing and hands-on, targeted expertise to help Ontario’s women-led businesses thrive. This new program is delivered in partnership with Business Centre of Guelph Wellington, GreenHouse at St. Paul’s College - University of Waterloo, and Waterloo Region Small Business Centre with technology and evaluation partners Pollinate and 10c.
Another of IG’s programs, the Rhyze™ Up! national accelerator addresses the needs of women-owned and women-led companies. The program has been tailored to help women entrepreneurs identify an effective path to scaling up and to overcome obstacles that hold them back.
This is far from Innovation Guelph’s first collaborative success. Read below about some of the women-led businesses they have supported through their Fuel Injection program, delivered in partnership with Bioenterpise’s Seed Funding program funded by FedDev Ontario. Innovation Guelph and Bioenterprise are proud to share the stories of some of the women-led businesses they’ve had the pleasure to work with.
Bioenterprise Round 5 Seed Fund Recipient
It was more than five years ago that Kristine White, co-founder and President of Spornado, was approached by a large company to source a passive air sampler to detect fungal disease in crops. White describes offering to find a sampler as a favour for the company, but she had no way of knowing that the favour she was doing would be for her own career, and the entire agriculture sector. She was shocked to learn that not only were there no options available, but the solutions that did exist required power and were both expensive and elaborate. So she proposed designing a sampler for the company.
While that original company fell away from the project after one season due to logistics, White was inspired by the interest and need expressed in the agriculture community. Meeting after meeting with researchers and growers returned a single message: this was something worth pursuing! Driven by the passion of her community, White came to Bioenterprise and the Seed Funding Program. “If we had found this program five years earlier, we would be a lot farther ahead,” says White, “Building out a plan and really committing to our deadlines kept us focused on each next step.”
The funding provided through the program was only the beginning of the Seed Funding impact. White notes that the real value was delivered through strategic connections to Bioenterpise’s network of partners. Early on Spornado was connected to a patent lawyer with sector experience and a trusted history with Bioenterprise clients. Next was a marketing firm to drive sales, and finally connections to vineyards in the Niagara region expanded the product into a new market. The results are a complete re-brand including the launch of a new website for Spornado, live field deployment in vineyards thanks to expanded connections to grape researchers in OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs), and the filing of a provisional patent securing the intellectual property of Spornado’s vast research and development efforts.
White is just one of many female entrepreneurs applying specialized skills and years of experience to new agriculture innovations. White has used the opportunities presented through Bioenterprise and other programs (IRAP, Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)) to showcase Canadian leadership on international stages, and across various crops. While operating in a traditionally male-dominated field, White is a great example of community engagement and leadership solving real issues for growers across Canada, and beyond.
“Agriculture is an amazing space to work in,” White continues, “between grower events, international research, and existing relationships we have seen a lot of interest, and everyone is open to new innovations and opening new doors. We have an opportunity to change the way pesticide use is practiced across the agriculture spectrum; every crop, internationally,” and that, she says, is the true goal of Spornado. Both farmers and pesticide producers want to see these changes, decreasing crop resistance and deploying the most effective products where they are needed is better for everyone. By targeting pesticide use, determining where stronger or more precise options are required, and increasing accuracy, these seemingly simple devices that require no power, and very little investment, can mean big changes for crop disease prevention, and for the environment.
To find out more about Kristine’s journey and Spornado’s success, visit: www.spornadosampler.com
Innovation Guelph Round 3 Fuel Injection Recipient
To address her oldest son’s food intolerances, Jill Weaver, founder of Stock Exchange Bone Broth, became passionate about sourcing food from local farmers and started creating stocks and broths from her kitchen food waste. She learned to create nutrient-dense bone broth and began blending it into her cooking. Eventually she started trading bone broth to other busy parents. She launched a Facebook page called Stock Exchange in 2013 and its success inspired her to incorporate a formal business in June 2015.
Feeling as though her momentum had stalled, Weaver said she was lacking energy and hope. “I was basically at a stand-still,” Weaver said. Reaching out to Innovation Guelph pushed her to take action and move her business forward. The grant provided by FedDevON and the mentorship “provided me with the support I needed to persevere and stick with my business.”
“Since being accepted into the Fuel Injection program, I have not changed my original vision or direction, but have simply built upon it,” Weaver explained.
Connecting to the local food system is an intentional strategy of her business. In fact, Weaver’s family history is tied to agriculture. A family business, Weavercroft International was the largest livestock exporter in Canada. However, that business quickly changed in 2003 due to the mad-cow crisis. Her father came from generations of farmers and her mother’s family were sheep farmers. Weaver has professional experience with the University of Waterloo, an NGO and early experience in food service. Drawing on her roots, academic and working education, she is passionate about sourcing locally. “I believe we need to honour our food, the farmers who are growing and harvesting it, and utilize everything to its full potential (nose to tail) while regenerating the soil and the environment,” Weaver explained.
“I am most proud of the farm partner relationships we have established, and the new market Stock Exchange has developed and for purchasing under-utilized animal parts and ‘ugly vegetables’ to create traditional, nutrient dense, clean label, functional food products with superior taste profiles.” Weaver said. “I am also proud of myself for persevering through these initial early and very tough years.”
Weaver says she offers customers a bone broth product that is the closest to homemade available on the market. Based on her belief that our current food system is lacking in so many ways, she wants to offer an alternative to like-minded consumers. Although their production process is extremely labour-intensive, Weaver is committed to providing her product to those interested in “slow food made convenient for people who want to know how their food is grown, harvested, processed, packaged, and distributed.”
Weaver isn’t resting on her accomplishments; she plans to develop additional lines of bone broth sourced from within Ontario. Bison, heritage pork, wild boar, pastured turkey, duck, goose, lamb and Georgian Bay white fish are on her list! She is also considering a mushroom/veg stock and even a shrimp stock from the new shrimp farms in the province.
Stock Exchange Bone Broth is currently available in the freezer section of over 200 stores across the province and continues to grow.
To learn more about Jill Weaver and her commitment to mindful nourishment visit www.stockexchangebroth.com.