Ignite Capital is a Toronto-based non profit organisation that helps emerging Ontario entrepreneurs with a limited access to capital. The annual competition they run awards entrepreneurs up to $25,000 in funding (combination of grant/loan) and is currently accepting applications (deadline September 10th). The four categories are: women, immigrants, youth and Start Me Up. Impact Hub Ottawa interviewed Ignite Capital founder Pat McNamara to find out a little more about how and why to apply.
Why did you decide to found Ignite Capital?
I am an entrepreneur who is passionate about helping other small businesses succeed. I started APEX Public Relations in 1998 and sold it to two of my employees in 2016. Along the way we grew to over 30 people with high profile clients such as BMO, Levi’s, Nike, Samsung and Walmart. When I stepped away from the day to day running of APEX a few years ago, I wanted to capitalize on my passion for entrepreneurism by helping others so in 2013 I started Ignite Capital. Along the way, I have also counselled several start-ups and have invested in a few. I believe that small business is the engine of our economy and I want to help for-profit businesses grow and prosper.
What kind of entrepreneurs do you want to help with this competition?
Ignite Capital is focused on the day-to-day businesses that drive the Canadian economy. There is too much attention and funding being given to the tech start-ups that often require millions in start-up financing. We need to pay more attention to the smaller businesses that put everything they have into making them a success.
Through our competition, which distributes $145,000 in funding (a combination of grant/loans) to twelve entrepreneurs, we have helped a variety of small businesses including a tea retailer, kids’ hockey pant manufacturer, commercial window washing, alternative milk development and a mobile, waterless car detailing business.
Successful applicants must earn under $50,000 per year, have a registered for profit business (preferably with some sales) and fit the other criteria of our four categories: women, immigrants, youth and start-up.
What makes applications successful?
Applicants need to bring their entrepreneurial story to life and show the passion they have for their businesses. At the same time they need to illustrate that they have done thorough market research and prove that there is a market for your product or service and ensure that they answer all of the questions that are required in submitting their business plan. And they need to have the financials to back it up. We want to see a combination of both the personal and business side of your story. It is a thorough process, but has helped many entrepreneurs focus on how to promote their firm.
What inspires you the most in your job?
The hard work and passion that the applicants put into their businesses is truly inspiring. Having to short list to twelve businesses from over 150 applicants is extremely difficult. Watching them take the time and effort to condense their story into a 10 minute pitch is amazing. All of our judges walk away truly inspired by their efforts.
Your favorite success stories?
There have been so many success stories. I am extremely proud of the fact that all of the businesses we have funded over the past 5 years are still operating and have experienced a range of growth from 33% to 200%. One story comes to mind from a company called T By Daniel. Daniel and his wife Renata have overcome many obstacles to launch their tea company. Most recently they were invited to serve their tea to Prince Charles and Camilla on their recent visit to Canada.
Find out more: www.ignitecapital.ca