Accelerate ... now

By Geoff Lee

October 6, 2016 12:00 AM

Entrepreneur Wendy Plandowski, left, and Kara Johnston from Alberta Innovates listen to 11 year-old entrepreneur, Nathan James, from Vermilion, speak about his Icycle Bicycle business startup at a Monday Regional Innovation Network meeting hosted by Rotary.

Lloydminster is the newest member of the Alberta Regional Innovation Network (RIN) that aims to stimulate economic development and diversity.
The creation of the East Central Alberta RIN in Lloydminster in partnership with Lakeland College, Alberta Innovates and the Regional Business Accelerator recognizes our city as a strong regional economic hub.
“We are pleased to expand our services to the Lloydminster region,” said Rollie Dykstra, general manager of commercialization at Alberta Innovates,  that fully funds the Lloydminster RIN.
Dykstra spoke about the new RIN at a Rotary club lunch Monday during a two day meeting of provincial RINs at the Lloydminster Exhibition Grounds.
“Our plan with RIN is to find like minded passionate people to try and help small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) to become successful,” said Dykstra.
“Our goal it to try to stimulate the economy through coaching and mentoring of SMEs and access to government programs.”
Kara Johnston, a former Lakeland College dean, has been hired by Alberta Innovates to provide coaching and mentoring to local companies in the Lloydminster region as the new RIN technology development advisor (TDA).
She’ll work with SMEs to provide them with services ranging from coaching and mentoring and   funding sources to business plans.
“It’s all about diversifying the economy and creating jobs,” said Johnston, who will work from the Regional Business Accelerator office at Lakeland College.
The Regional Business Accelerator has been providing services to new entrepreneurs and businesses looking at diversification expansion for a number of years in Lloydminster.
Glenys Reeves-Gibbs, executive director of the business accelerator said having Johnston as a Lloydminster RIN TDA will greatly assist new entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas that can create jobs.
“That is what we are looking for, is how can we get people moving from that idea stage to the actual business stage,” said Reeves-Gibbs
Member organizations in the RIN offer a suite of geographically convenient services and programs including advisory services, technology and concept development, industry and academic funding programs, market and customer development, financing and investment attraction, and educational programs.
Johnston said her time as a Lakeland dean of energy allowed her to build connections in the community and develop the coaching and mentoring skills she will use as a TDA for the Lloydminster RIN.
“I am very much an entrepreneur at heart—I am very passionate about business so this is really exciting for me to be back out to be working with entrepreneurs and to be working with business,” said Johnston.
Rotary Club president, Jason Whiting, was pleased to be able to host the Alberta Innovation Network for the club’s luncheon. “I think it’s great for this community to have these organizations here to help promote entrepreneurship to promote our economy and diversify it,” said Whiting.
“It’s really crucial to our community.”
The meeting featured a panel of Johnston and entrepreneurs Wendy Plandowski who is also the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation CEO and 11 year-old Nathan James from Vermilion.
Plandowski who is in the advance planing stages of a business startup with her husband, and young James—who started a bicycle ice cream business with his kid sister— spoke about the help received from the Regional Business Accelerator.
“We’ve been able to access business planning services that have really helped us to flesh out the different ideas that we have to start a couple of ideas and get them off the ground,” said Plandowski.
“Right now we are in the planning stages and hope to be able to launch in the next month or so.”
James got the biggest round of applause for speaking about the help he and his seven year-old sister Laura got to launch their summer Icycle Bicycle business.
“We ride around the streets of Vermilion selling different ice cream treats,” said James.
“My parents gave us an interest free loan and so far we paid 50 per cent of it back.”
James was also coached by the Community Futures’ Biz Kids program that he credits for his success.
“It was a really good help,” he said. “It taught me how to be a young entrepreneur and they provided me with a $100 grant and it really helped out.”

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