Starter Firm Plus helps flip pastime into thriving enterprise

Starter Firm Plus helps flip pastime into thriving enterprise

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Like many others in Southwestern Ontario, Ana Costa, a Brazilian-born English instructor and early childhood educator, discovered herself dealing with a wave of change in the course of the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Costa and her husband, a software program engineer, determined to maneuver with their younger son to Stratford in November 2020 after his employer in Kitchener introduced a full-time shift to distant work. Stratford was on their checklist, Costa stated, as a result of she and her husband deliberate to someday retire within the “cute little city” they might typically go to with household and mates.

“That was a time after we wanted more room; we’ve got two canines, too, so we would have liked a yard,” Costa stated. “We had been tremendous completely satisfied that we didn’t have to attend till retirement. It was the home of our goals at a value we may really afford.”

After the transfer, Costa had extra choices to make, together with whether or not or to not ship her son again to daycare in the midst of a pandemic. As soon as she settled on preserving him at house, Costa, a Conestoga Faculty graduate, started questioning about the way forward for her profession as an educator and whether or not she ought to use the chance to pursue one in every of her different passions.

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In her spare time, Costa designs and creates felt and cotton dolls, a facet hustle that sometimes helped her make somewhat more money whereas she was finding out. There was just one downside. She didn’t know something about beginning a small enterprise.

Inspired by a pal, Costa arrange a gathering on the Stratford Perth Centre for Enterprise in March. Eight months later, she’s amongst six entrepreneurs who’re sharing $30,000 in Starter Firm Plus grants, funding the enterprise centre gives graduates of its program for promising start-ups in Stratford, St. Marys, and Perth County.

“It was wonderful. It simply modified every little thing,” Costa stated about her expertise founding her firm, Sambelina Atelier. “I began seeing my pastime as a enterprise. When the grant alternative got here, I utilized as a result of I used to be assured sufficient. That was actually, actually thrilling.”

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The federal government-funded Starter Firm Plus program graduates two cohorts of entrepreneurs per 12 months. The newest cohort lately accomplished a six-week coaching program that included one-on-one teaching {and professional} mentorship.

“Except for the structured studying, the Starter Firm Plus program gives, the distinctive shared expertise can be extraordinarily necessary,” stated Holly Mortimer, an adviser on the Stratford Perth Centre for Enterprise. “Turning into an entrepreneur generally is a lonely expertise and the sense of assist and group created lasts lengthy after this system concludes.”

Different graduates from the most recent cohort embody Jonathan Sipple, a photographer and graphic designer who focuses on creating eye-catching thumbnails for content material creators on YouTube, and Gabrielle Arkett, a herbalist who plans to supply academic workshops about regionally grown medicinal crops.

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Costa started creating her dolls in 2009. Initially, they had been items for a household she lived with in the USA whereas on an au pair-style alternate program. She nonetheless remembers crafting the primary one to seem like the household’s oldest daughter, who was about three-and-a-half years previous on the time.

A felt and cotton doll made by Stratford artisan and entrepreneur Ana Costa. (Contributed photo)
A felt and cotton doll made by Stratford artisan and entrepreneur Ana Costa. (Contributed picture)

“She checked out her mother and checked out me and stated, “She appears to be like identical to me!” That was the perfect feeling,” Costa stated. “It was very touching.”

When Costa observed kids had been inquisitive about dolls that appeared like them, she realized her creations may additionally assist educate them about variety.

“That at all times felt like it will be my mission,” she stated. “I made a batch of dolls that had completely different pores and skin colors and completely different hairstyles and I feel that’s what caught the eye of individuals.”

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A felt and cotton doll made by Stratford artisan and entrepreneur Ana Costa. (Contributed photo)
A felt and cotton doll made by Stratford artisan and entrepreneur Ana Costa. (Contributed picture)

Costa has beforehand bought her dolls by commissions in addition to at markets in Kitchener and Stratford. She’s nonetheless making them herself by hand in her basement, however she has plans subsequent 12 months to develop her enterprise by partnering with different artisans and establishing a web based store. She will be discovered on Instagram @sambelina.atelier and

“I’m getting somewhat extra consideration, which has been nice as a result of I’ve been in a position to meet with lots of people that share the identical objectives,” She stated. “We’ll attempt to symbolize as many kids as we will.”

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Latest graduates from the Stratford Perth Enterprise Centre’s Starter Firm Plus program

Jonathan Sippel, The Thumbnail Man: With a background in images and digital design, Jonathan started creating thumbnails for mates publishing YouTube movies. The extra he created, the extra requests he obtained to create extra. His enterprise gives companies that embody thumbnail creation, consultations and coming in 2023, programs to learn to create your individual thumbnail. Study extra at

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Amanda Hohner, Hollyhock Hair Studio: Amanda opened Hollyhock Hair when she realized that her life as a busy mother required a extra versatile work schedule. She wished management over her hours and earnings, so she created Hollyhock Hair in downtown Stratford Additionally, as an environmentally acutely aware enterprise, she has launched techniques and merchandise that enable her shoppers to contribute to saving the planet. Contact her through 519-301-7055 or observe on Instagram @hollyhockhairstudio

Jamie Gibbings, 519 Security: Jamie is a licensed Ministry of Labour coach who has spent years within the coaching area and is taking all his expertise and information to create a custom-made program designed for small enterprise homeowners. Specializing in office security, HR, and coverage creation, Jamie’s firm may also help employers and staff come to work in a secure and authorized workspace each single day. Contact through [email protected]

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Gabrielle Arkett, Singing Nettles Herbs: Singing Nettles Herbs is about connecting individuals to the crops that develop the place they reside, and galvanizing individuals to work with native crops in sustainable, inventive methods. Via rising and promoting dried herbs and natural merchandise, and thru academic workshops, SNH hopes to present individuals the instruments they should assist their very own private progress and therapeutic and get enthusiastic about medicinal crops. Contact [email protected] or @garkles on Instagram.

Christianna Strahan, Cricket Care: As a licensed private assist employee who was coming off maternity go away, Christianna knew she wished to be accountable for her days and earnings, so she created Cricket Care, a assist service for the ailing, aged or these in want of each day help. She is already rising her crew and plans to specialise in varied areas of care. Contact through 289-251-0137 or [email protected]

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