by Ashley Campbell. Photo credit: Rose Creative (Pictured (L-R): Katie Gamble, Linda Biggs, Andrew Hall and Eve Olynyk). Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Business Class magazine.


Starting a company is no easy feat, but something even more daunting awaits the successful founder: scaling it up. For most Gustavson grads this begins six months to five years after the launch of their business and requires resources such as financial support, which is often not readily available at a time when the operational demands are high.

That’s why the first annual Tiny Summit was launched in January. Gustavson alumni with companies five years and younger looking to scale up were invited to compete for up to $24,000 in funding prize money.

The day-long Summit included pitches from four alumni founder finalists, high-impact networking and a celebration of the work of Gustavson alumni and the entrepreneurship community.

“Although we cover scaling during the summer entrepreneurship specialization for BCom students, we don’t emphasize growth aspects due to time constraints. It’s also not on founders’ minds in those early days. The timing is wrong,” says Mia Maki, associate dean, external. “The Tiny Summit allows our alumni to gather feedback from scaling experts and access funds for the next stage of growth, when they need it—post-graduation.”

Andrew Wilkinson, co-founder of Victoria-based tech holding company Tiny, started the Tiny Summit Fund in support of Gustavson entrepreneurs. The judging panel included AdButler founder Rajiv Khaneja, Redpoint Ventures managing director Jason Warner, Heart Pharmacy Group owner Rasool Rayani and Flytographer CEO and founder Nicole Smith.

“We couldn’t provide this opportunity without the entrepreneurship community, as they have experienced the ups and downs of scaling,” says Maki.

Finalist Katie Gamble, founder and CEO of Nature Bee, says, “It was nice having the judges and participants congratulate and celebrate each other. I learned more in three hours than I have in years of meetings or trialing things myself.”

Learning doesn’t stop once you leave the classroom, and start-up success goes beyond the “starting up” part. This is why opportunities such as the Tiny Summit are critical to the Gustavson entrepreneur-development ecosystem.

Tiny Summit Finalists

(Andrew Hall, BCom ’11; co-founded by Jeremy Bryant)—winner, $20,000

Can you sum up your business?
We started No Story Lost because our parents and grandparents have amazing stories. No Story Lost interviews loved ones and turns their life stories into beautiful coffee table books.

What is the ultimate goal for your business? Where do you see it in the next five years?
No Story Lost was a side project for us until recently—but now it’s our main focus and we’re excited for it to really grow. We’re hoping to grow from 60 projects last year, to over 200 this year and 500 next year. In five years, we’ll hope to be doing thousands of projects annually.

What advice would you give about scaling a business?
The key to scaling is to remove yourself as a bottleneck to growth. To grow, you need to outsource things you’re bad at. But to really grow, you’re also going to need to outsource the things you’re good at.

What was the most valuable part of participating in the Tiny Summit?
Being connected to the judges has opened up some amazing opportunities for us, so I’m grateful for that. It’s great to have them in our network and supporting us.

(Katie Gamble, BCom ’18)

Can you sum up your business?
Nature Bee is built on the idea that one small change has a major impact. We manufacture reusable beeswax food wraps and sell dissolvable cleaning tablets as well as Swedish dishcloths. We are a female owned and operated small business in Victoria, BC.

What is the ultimate goal for your business? Where do you see it in the next five years?
I’m not a big fan of concrete plans years in advance. As a small business, you need to be agile and flexible. If I have to share my ‘dream-big’ moments, it would be to be the most accessible sustainable brand on the market. This means that when you shop in-store or online you can find us at an affordable and accessible price.

What advice would you give about scaling a business?
It is very challenging and I think the most important thing is sustainable growth. Sometimes businesses that grow really fast, secure huge contracts and have 100 employees are actually struggling with cash flow. Make sure that you are keeping on top of cash flow, maintaining company culture, and hiring the right people. Understanding the way business shifts so quickly is important to your growth as well.

What was the most valuable part of participating in the Tiny Summit?
The connections that I made through the Tiny Summit were so valuable. One thing I took away from the event was that entrepreneurship does not have to be isolating. We are all going through similar challenges and the community I have formed from the Tiny Summit is so impactful.

(Jayesh Vekariya, MBA ’19, co-founded by Linda Biggs)

Can you sum up your business?
Joni is a 21st-century period care brand on a mission to make sustainable period care accessible to everyone, through innovative dispensers and sustainable products. This industry hasn’t changed in over 30 years, but the world around it has.

What is the ultimate goal for your business? Where do you see it in the next five years?
Anyone who has ever needed period care when they have been caught off guard can attest to how low the current standards are for dispensers and their products. We’re looking to make period care just as accessible as toilet paper with our freevend joni dispensers. We hope to be in over 5,000 organizations in the next five years across Canada and support over one million people.

What advice would you give about scaling a business?
You need people with a variety of business skills to scale to the next level. Be open to ideas and people as it’s never too late to experiment with strategy and it’s never too easy to get the right people.

What was the most valuable part of participating in the Tiny Summit?
The feedback from the panel was extremely helpful in validating our ideas and getting a sense of how they would land with investors. I took away that we’ve landed on something exciting in our startup journey and now is the time to make things happen.

(Eve Olynyk, BCom ’17, co-founded by Simon Park, BEng ’19)

Can you sum up your business?
MeepMeep makes smart disc golf accessories. We bootstrapped and ran a pre-order campaign to finance our first product, which we started shipping out in June 2022. Our first product is a stick-on locator to help disc golfers find their discs faster so they can search less and play more. After selling out of our available inventory, we are now working on our second production run following the market’s positive reaction to our first test.

What is the ultimate goal for your business? Where do you see it in the next five years?
Ultimately, we want to be a cutting-edge manufacturer of disc golf stacking technology. We aim to leverage machine-learning technologies to provide flight analytics, performance recommendations and more to this massively high-growth sport.

What advice would you give about scaling a business?
For physical product businesses at least, you reach a weird point where you might have the demand and the market, but you are still struggling to have the cash flow to acquire and produce your inventory in order to meet the demand. Make sure your accounting systems are well set up and you’re using a forecasting tool. If you are the leader, even if you have an accountant, you want to know your cash flow inside and out.

What was the most valuable part of participating in the Tiny Summit?
It felt more like a working session where we could get advice on our scaling challenges instead of a traditional pitch event. The judges had already learned a lot about our businesses before the event so we could really focus on discussing our challenges. When you are working so hard in a business, you can sometimes lose perspective or get stuck on following one route to growth. It was great to get a push from the judges to consider growth opportunities I hadn’t considered before. It was also really reassuring to be able to ask, ‘are we on the right track here?’

1. The importance of telling stories. Hall recommends telling stories, but adds that the difference between explaining a concept and telling a story is night and day. “We have a rule whenever we have a microphone: if you’re not telling relevant and interesting stories, get off the stage. Humans are wired to love stories, anecdotes, analogies.”

2. Understand the judging criteria. “Once you know it, ask, ‘How can I make it easy for the judges to give me full marks?’” Hall says. In his experience, contest judges are often volunteers and usually have a lot on their minds; plus, they must listen and judge at the same time. “They’re going to forget half of what you said. They’ll be looking at their sheet answering things like: ‘Did the speaker clearly outline the competitors in their space?’ If you know the rubric, you can literally have a slide that says, ‘Outline of the competitors in our space,’” explains Hall.

3. The importance of authenticity. “Judges and audiences can easily tell when you’re fake. It’s almost impossible to disguise things on stage and still appear genuine. Pretending to be what you think they want to see guarantees they won’t like you. Be radically you.”