Eve building community by searching less and playing more

Sometimes, frustration drives innovation. For longtime disc golfer Eve Olynyk, this was the case. In disc golf (aka frisbee golf or frolf), players throw discs along 9 and 18-hole courses, usually found in forested areas. The “holes” are wire-frame baskets or metal poles called tones. This inexpensive, social, and challenging yet accessible sport was invented in the 1970s. Unlike golf, where it’s pretty common to lose balls here and there, without too much of a hassle, the disc is the ball and the club. Seeing as most courses are located in the forest, they get lost a lot. This can not only stall the game but can also get expensive. These are the seeds of MeepMeep’s story.

While Eve was a commerce student, she participated in a few Coast Capital Innovation Centre PitchIt competitions, winning one. So, she was familiar with the incubator and some of the Centre’s programs. In 2019, two years after graduation, Eve came up with the idea of a disc golf disc tracker. She went straight to the Innovation Centre team for feedback. They agreed it was a solid idea and introduced her to mechanical engineering graduate Simon Park to design and build a prototype. He had been through the incubator and was a go-to for carefully and well-designed prototypes.

Eve was initially part of the Innovation Centre’s pilot of WVenture, a tailored three-month program for female entrepreneurs with a tech-enabled product or service in-market. “WVenture not only provided the push we needed to start talking to potential customers and vetting the market, they actually provided us with hands-on experts and peer-to-peer support from other inspiring women. When I look at what other WVenture alumni like Origen Air and Solaires are doing now, the impact of the program is obvious to me. “

At first, Eve hired Simon as a contractor. But as they began talking and working on what is now MeepMeep, a few things became apparent—they approached the project from contrasting yet deeply complementary lines of thought. The two got along well and also shared ideas seamlessly. Eve realized that Simon would be a must-have component of MeepMeep’s ability to succeed. She broached this with Simon, and he decided to come on board as co-founder. He shares, “engineering has a specific way of approaching things, so it has been cool to see another way of thinking.”

Launching an international electronic product has required perseverance and an appetite for learning. There are so many facets, from product concept to design to production. Eve and Simon agree that sharing similar values with different perspectives has been critical. She works at a fast clip, and Simon focuses on beautiful and exceptional design. “The co-founder is the most important part of your business,” Eve emphasizes, “you really have to understand one another really well.”

Although certain components flowed smoothly, MeepMeep also encountered its share of challenges. There was a particular way they wanted to build the trackers, and they had to work on it part-time. Early funding came only from pre-orders. Also, there are many support programs, but most are not designed for people who are launching internationally. “We’re trying to have an anti-burnout culture, but we needed to work a lot to make it happen,” Simon shares.

They are both deeply grateful for the Innovation Centre’s commitment. When the team did not have the answer, they would source someone appropriate. Eve and Simon leaned heavily on the pool of advisors, and it has paid off well. MeepMeep incorporated in 2020. They are making 2000 for their first production run with shipping slated for June 2022.

For people considering entrepreneurship, Eve advises, “even if you have a stupid idea, just start. Leverage PlanIt and PitchIt, and see what happens”. Simon, who went through the incubator with an idea that fared well at first, but he had to let go, “failure sucks. Everyone tries to suggest it can be a great thing, and you can put it down to bad luck or timing, but it sucks. Instead of being so focused on success, I know now that what I need to do is my best. Do your best—that’s my advice,” Simon says.

The Coast Capital Innovation Centre is a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Coast Capital Federal Credit Union. Since 2016, Coast Capital has committed over $1.5 million to support entrepreneurs and innovators at UVic.

 

Written by Gillie Easdon

Katie Gamble shares her journey commitment to the environment

Victoria born and raised Katie Gamble has always been down to initiate and propel positive change. From leadership committees to organizations and starting Open for Change with a friend in high school, her focus has remained consistent. The club focused on supporting the local community with meaningful initiatives. She likes “to follow her passions and be creative”. Her award-winning  Nature Bee beeswax wraps embody her commitment to the environment, ingenuity, and workplace culture.

Katie initially took general courses at Camosun before finding the Business Program at UVIC. In 2018, Katie’s last year in Business, Nature Bee was her final project. But she wanted to go further with her concept and connected with the team at the Innovation Centre. They were wildly supportive, plus they offered diverse funding opportunities, learning programs and tools. She joined the Coast Capital Innovation Centre later in 2018. “I was curious to mix my passions in a different way, to have a big impact. I also wanted to brainstorm and learn and share with other entrepreneurs.”

In the early days of Nature Bee, finding the perfect balanced formula was tricky. There was much trial and error. Jojoba is shelf-stable, has a neutral scent and is pliable, producing a smooth, crack-free wrap. The pine resin provides the stickiness, so the wraps hold their shape to pots, bowls, etc. Nature Bee wraps are anti-bacterial and suitable for approximately 300 uses or approximately 9-12 months. To date, Katie has sold more than 750,000 units.

In April 2019, Katie won $2500 for PlanIt with the Innovation Centre. This competition involves submitting a business plan or canvas with a three-five executive summary. For new entrepreneurs, the feedback, support, and cash rewards are invaluable. During Katie’s time with the Business Program, “you are focused on working through the diverse projects getting the project done, but at IC, you can turn your focus on how—How do you scale? How do you source things? Where is growth? What are the next steps? Who are your customers?” The support, communication, and connection that the Innovation Centre extends during but also after program completion were key to Katie and Nature Bee’s ongoing success.

Katie was approached about putting a logo on a wrap. Curiosity piqued, she developed a method to deliver logoed beeswax on 100% cotton, in-house designed, made and assembled wraps. It was a huge success. This increased her market substantially and created an innovative niche to inhabit.

Pre-pandemic, Katie sold Nature Bee at local markets, aligning with her focus on community and sustainability. Now, most sales are online or wholesale. She stresses the importance of recognizing the ebb and flow of business. “You need to try to understand the world and how that impacts your business.” But most importantly, Katie shared that being clear on your why and your values are vital to reinforcing a business’ mission, drive, and ultimate prosperity.

Apart from replacing single-use plastics or aluminum foil, beeswax wraps can be refreshed once they lose their shape and integrity. Nature Bee sells a Nature Bee Beeswax Block to reinforce the wraps. But they are also fully compostable and make fantastic fire starters when you cut them into strips. They must be washed with cold water, and an alcohol-free gentle soap added to the cold water works with a dish brush work when they are especially messy. Lay them out to dry, and they’re ready to go. It’s important to remember to let food cool completely before using them. Raw or cooked meats can be wrapped, but should not touch the wrap directly to avoid contamination, so put them in a bowl first. Also, do not put them in the microwave—the beeswax, oil, and resin mix will melt.

There have been a few bumps along the way, and Katie was pleased to share a few gems regarding starting a small business. “Understand what growth looks like. Don’t grow too fast. Make sure you take care of your staff; they are an incredibly important component of a successful endeavor. My team is the best. Hire on personality, not skills, unless it’s a specific skill required. You can teach skills.” She’s proud of the community she has built with her team and also amazed at the huge partnerships that have come her way.

Nature Bee also sells aligned products, such as eco dishcloths, a kitchen loofah, honey clementine foaming hand soap refill tablets, and product bags. Her customizable wraps have enabled companies and organizations to walk the walk regarding nurturing positive impact. She and her team work hard and are deeply committed to themselves, the local economy, and the world.

“You have to be passionate about what you are doing. You have to understand your why so you can bring people on board. You are the brand for the first bit. But,” she adds, “the business also has to be profitable to continue making an impact.”

In terms of giving back, Nature Bee firmly believes that even one small change can have a major impact. As such, they have partnered and/or supported several non-profits, including the national non-profit Mamas for Mamas, Vancouver Island’s Surfrider Foundation, Lalmba Canada, the Mustard Seed, as well as supporting individuals and community initiatives that resonate with their values.

Reflecting on her time with the Innovation Centre, Katie can’t emphasize enough how wonderful it was and still is to have a great community cheering for you. “They have funding, knowledge, and they sincerely want to help. Plus, if it doesn’t work out, each failure is a learning opportunity that you can drive with you in your future endeavors”.

The Coast Capital Innovation Centre has been made possible through a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Coast Capital Federal Credit Union. Since 2016, Coast Capital has committed over $1.5 million to support entrepreneurs and innovators at UVic.

Written by Gillie Easdon

 

Local consumer electronics hardware startup MeepMeep launches their disc golf trackers across North America

After successfully funding their first production run via pre-orders, MeepMeep ships over 1000 trackers across the US and Canada.

VICTORIA, BC July 19, 2022 – MeepMeep, a local smart disc golf accessories hardware startup, announced today that they have successfully completed shipping pre-orders for their first product: a stick-on, smartphone-connected tracker device to help disc golfers save time by finding lost discs faster. With the commencement of pre-order shipping, MeepMeep trackers are now available for direct sales at www.meepmeep.co and at select retailers across North America, including at Sports Rent (https://sportsrentbc.com/) for Vancouver Island players.

MeepMeep product details

  • Connects to players’ smartphones so it only makes an alarm when needed, preventing unnecessary disruptions
  • Designed to be small and lightweight at only 5 mm in height and 7 g in weight
  • Uses removable high-strength adhesive to stick onto any disc
  • App design follows accessibility guidelines to support vision-impaired players

“While Greater Victoria’s software tech success story has long been discussed, we’re only recently seeing the hardware space grow and we’re incredibly proud to be one of the companies taking part in this moment. Growing up playing disc golf in the world-class courses we have here on the West Coast, I’ve always loved the sport and now with the explosion of disc golf, particularly during the pandemic, there has never been a more exciting time to be in this space. We are so excited to actually see our vision come to life as a result of our incredible team, the phenomenal support we’ve received from many partners, and from the disc golf community itself” says Eve Olynyk, CEO and Co-Founder of MeepMeep.

MeepMeep used crowdfunding to fund their first production run. This announcement comes as the 2022 Douglas 10 to Watch winner prepares to scale and enter new markets and channels to get their product in the hands of disc golfers around the world.

About MeepMeep

Founded by UVic grads Eve Olynyk (BCom, 2017) and Simon Park (BEng, 2019), MeepMeep is a 100% woman- & POC-led company. The now eight-person team, primarily composed of UVic and Camosun alumni, aims to build a company based on three principles: Do What Excites Us, Leverage Our Influence, and Be Genuine Humans. Following this first product, MeepMeep looks to further build in the smart disc golf accessories space by exploring concepts such as flight-tracking and machine-learning-based coaching services.

Instagram and Facebook: @meepmeepco

Website: https://www.meepmeep.co/ Email: contact@meepmeep.co

The Coast Capital Innovation Centre has been made possible through a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Coast Capital Federal Credit Union. Since 2016, Coast Capital has committed over $1.5 million to support entrepreneurs and innovators at UVic.

Written by Eve Olynyk

Victor’s journey with Sepura, the world’s first eco-friendly garbage disposal

Garbage disposal—wasteful, harmful to the environment, costly, smelly, loud and often gross. Engineering student Victor Nicolov found himself thinking more and more about how to create a clean, efficient alternative. He’d spent a lot of time tinkering, tweaking and innovating in his dad’s home workshops, constantly seeking ways to improve things. With a keen curiosity and technical aptitude, Victor always envisioned making a product and selling it. When he mentioned his idea to a colleague while attending the Engineering program at UVic, they told him about The Coast Capital Innovation Centre, UVic’s start-up incubator, which laid the foundation for Sepura and ANVY Technologies.

Incubators, programs that give early businesses access to mentorship, support and potential investors, are generally hard to get into—“But there it was, at my school. It easily shaved a year off my progress. The team was so helpful and knowledgeable,” Victor says. He graduated from Engineering in 2018, the same year he entered the incubator.

What is Sepura (seh-pure-ah)? It is an eco-friendly garbage disposal system that accepts all organic waste down the sink, separates the compostables and stores them in a “stink-proof”, ready-to-compost bin. The rest carries on down the drain. It’s quiet, reliable, and elegant.

Conceptually, there have been many design modifications and iterations along the way. An auger pushes waste along. Victor initially tried a centrifugal version with a crushing mechanism. However, when you crushed things, everything went down the drain, which was not where you wanted compostables. Plus, it used too much power and water to be good for the environment. Victor received a lot of great information from the City of Metro Vancouver, as well as plumbers he would chat with during Home Depot visits.

The incubator set the stage for Victor’s success. He won $5000 for the PlanIt competition and the Entrepreneurship Co-op Award for $6000, which allowed him to patent his idea. Meeting the other entrepreneurs provided great learning, support and a sounding board, plus introduced him to Connor Pickard, now Sepura’s VP of Sales and Marketing. There, he also connected with other advisors, potential customers, and investors. Victor still talks to the Centre of Innovation team today for general advice.

Victor attended the Consumer Electronics Show in 2020 with Sepura. This famed and influential international event was a prime opportunity to showcase his invention. Sepura’s anatomy? The separating component (self-cleaning), installation accessories and the collection centre. Installation is straightforward, which is key for those not technically inclined. The event was a triumph, and Sepura was featured as one of the top 100 inventions of 2020 by Time Magazine.

Starting a business was a significant shift for Victor. “You don’t know how hard it will be…you’re pushing it on people and investors, starting every meeting. Then, all of a sudden, there is a lot of pull, and you don’t have time to do anything and can’t find money fast enough. It’s challenging to adapt and prioritize.” As a self-described calm person, the stress was unexpected. How does he manage it? Victor works out, listens to music and shares thoughts with his spouse, who always has a helpful and always-valued perspective.

What advice would Victor offer young university students considering the incubator?

“Don’t wait—university is the best time to start something, especially if you have no other commitments. You can afford to fail, and there are a ton of resources.”

Sepura has sold 314 as of writing and is primed to launch in July. “I love how easy it is,” Victor shares, “It’s exciting, and I’m really proud of it. It’s fun to throw so much stuff in it.”

The Coast Capital Innovation Centre has been made possible through a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Coast Capital Federal Credit Union. Since 2016, Coast Capital has committed over $1.5 million to support entrepreneurs and innovators at UVic.

Written by Gillie Easdon

The startup story of Doodlebug with UVic student and founder, Danielle

“Without the Coast Capital Innovation Centre, I wouldn’t be where I am,” asserts Danielle Lowe, Founder and Owner of Doodlebug Pet Food, cricket-based, hypoallergenic dog treats. The Coast Capital Innovation Centre is UVic’s start-up incubator, providing student entrepreneurs with resources and focused support to start their businesses. Less than eight months from launch, mixing and treat-making equipment was en route to streamline production and meet thriving demand. To date, she’s won eleven awards and grants and sold more than 950 units.

Dog treats were not Danielle’s original concept. Flexiburger, a cricket-based patty for human consumption, was Danielle’s focus in her third year at UVic. Insects are high in protein and highly sustainable once you get past the stigma of eating bugs. The entrepreneurial co-op allows a student to work on their own business idea for an entire semester and gives students like Danielle the opportunity to dive into their business ideas with rich support, while satisfying their academic requirements. She won the $300 PitchIt award for her compelling pitch before starting her specialization. This nurtured Danielle’s confidence and belief in her potential for success.

Danielle encountered more barriers than solutions digging into the logistics and regulations surrounding human food production. Then, her new beloved puppy “fur-niece”, Billie, struggled with food allergies. A serious dog lover, Danielle recognized the opportunity, and Doodlebug was born. During her entrepreneurship specialization at UVic, she won PitchIt again, for Doodlebug. “It was great for early-stage validation and super helpful in refining my concept and pitch,” she shares.

“The incubator programming is like a boot camp for business,” she describes, “we learn to pitch, create business plans, connect with successful entrepreneurs and share our challenges with a like-minded team of people.” It’s currently her third time participating in an entrepreneurship co-op. Danielle values the fresh ideas and extensive access to university equipment and resources, “Plus, the Innovation Centre team is always there to help.”

During her entrepreneurship specialization, Danielle also won $3000 with PlanIt, the Innovation Centre’s business plan competition. This allowed her to refine her business plan and implement learning from sessions with the Innovation Centre. Danielle used this funding to launch Doodlebug and prepare it for farmers’ markets. Since then, she has been selling out of her peanut butter and banana, and pumpkin and apple dog treats online and at the markets, though she is in discussion with a couple of retail locations.

Balancing a business with studies has been a learning experience in itself. “Generally, there is a “right” answer at school. That’s not the case in business,” she explains. Danielle has found a way to navigate both successfully. Her next accolade was First Place in the UVic Startup Competition, winning $20,000, held at the end of the entrepreneurship specialization of her business degree. The funds helped launch Doodlebug and connected her with the local business community.

One of the things Danielle had not considered was the physical toll making a product can have. She received an Entrepreneurship Co-op Subsidy for $5,000, which she set aside to use for equipment. Recently, she was the recipient of the  prestigious Coast Capital Entrepreneur Co-op Award for $6,000, allowing her to order machinery; and grow her business and scale.

When asked what advice she might offer, especially for a young person encouraged to get a degree before pursuing a business, “don’t wait. If you are at UVic, in this program, the incubator is an incredible place to launch a business. There are so many opportunities and resources here.”

Danielle’s business and approach is attracting a lot of attention and acclaim. She made it to the semi-finals for The Forum Pitch and also won the Business Co-op Student of the Year Award for 2022. In March, she placed second out of 64 teams nationwide with St. Mary’s University’s March Madness Pitch Competition, modeled after the NCAA March Madness basketball competition.

As the sole Doodlebug investor, owner and founder, Danielle wears all the hats. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, she learned to let go a little to produce. “You can’t do everything perfectly, and certain decisions have to happen fast.” Autonomy is gold, but at times, she allows it would be nice to have someone handle the finance and marketing.

Danielle loves dogs. One of the many unexpected outcomes of Doodlebug is the connection she has with dog owners. At markets, people want to talk to her about their dogs. This positively fills her with joy. “One in five or eight will be people whose dogs have died. It’s therapeutic. We talk about their joy of owning a dog.”

Looking to the future and firmly grounded in her current enterprise, Danielle’s vision is to be a sustainable protein company. Business and studies are solid, and she just won the Top 10 to Watch with Douglas Magazine. Danielle credits the Innovation Centre for giving her the opportunity to connect, bounce ideas off other early entrepreneurs and learn from professionals. Sharing space with people going through the same thing was invaluable.

The Coast Capital Innovation Centre has been made possible through a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Coast Capital Federal Credit Union. Since 2016, Coast Capital has committed over $1.5 million to support entrepreneurs and innovators at UVic.

Written by Gillie Easdon