Publications

Samantha Sperling and Keeley McCormick (BME) Win the Coast Capital Entrepreneurship Co-op Award for Revyn Medical Technologies Inc.

“The Coast CapitaI Innovation Centre is so generous with their time. They always have time to listen. It’s been so validating.”  – Keeley McCormick, CEO, Revyn Medical Technologies Inc.

Samantha Sperling and Keeley McCormick of Revyn Medical Technologies Inc. are both biomedical engineering students at UVic. One of their classes focused on human factors. Students were tasked with improving an existing medical device. Samantha and Keeley’s team of five was composed of four cis women and one cis man. They deliberated on project options until the male attended a pap with his girlfriend. The uncomfortable, antiquated procedure floored him and the team discovered their medical device for the project, the vaginal speculum. Sometimes, it takes an outsider to notice when something standard and familiar requires an update.

Plantation doctor J. Marion Sims created the vaginal speculum in Lancaster County, South Carolina, between 1845 and 1849. Often called the “father of modern gynecology,” DR. Sims is said to have performed surgeries on enslaved Black women without anesthesia. He developed the duckbill speculum through this barbaric process. It’s time for a new, comfortable, effective and ethically-produced speculum.

As team “Revyn” began researching the speculum design and function, they learned about its inefficiencies, including its bill-like shape not accounting for the walls, which may cave in during a pap, impeding effectiveness. It’s also designed for right-handed users. Many people with vaginas simply skip their paps because it is invasive and can be painful, but this is the only procedure that detects signs of early cervical cancer. This further fuelled the team as they worked diligently  “to increase device effectiveness, patient comfort, and physician ease-of-use.”

Revyn Technologies Inc. was founded in September 2023, which made their Coast Capital Entrepreneurship Co-op Award (October 2023) win all the more of an honor and surprise. Usually, winning businesses have been launched for at least a year. The team was honored, surprised and grateful for the prestige and remuneration. The funds will be used towards IP protection, the next critical and costly step in bringing Revyn to market.

“One of the biggest challenges is that all of us are either finishing engineering degrees or just graduated; the business side is completely new to us all. There is a huge learning curve. The (Coast Capital) Entrepreneurship Co-op has been really helpful.”  – Keeley McCormick, CEO, Revyn Medical Technologies Inc.

Startups commonly have one or two founders. Revyn Medical Technologies Inc. has five. Keeley is the CEO, seeking funding and supporting the other team members. Sam is the Chief Product Officer, “working on the whole prototyping, looking up local manufacturers, colleges and what they offer. I explore how we take the design from what it is now to something proven and sound that fulfills the function we want.” Once that is established, Sam will also branch into the marketing aspect. Each team member has a well-defined role so they can benefit from their collective expertise and skills.

Revyn’s research and design process has involved speaking with many physicians and patients. Sam has also connected with the college manufacturing programs at BCIT and Camosun both of which have such programs. BCIT is a substantial medical device manufacturer and has a medical program, so funding for the “phantom vagina” (anatomically-correct model of a vagina), for further proof of concept may be more likely there.

Currently focused on the speculum,  Revyn Medical Technologies Inc. plans to continue creating medical devices that meet the needs of underserved communities. For them, a device that “gets the job done” is not enough. Why the name Revyn? Keeley and Sam explain it came partly from moving around letters but also incorporates revolutionizing, revamping, revisioning, and revving up design and function. Keep an eye on this team and congratulations!

Written by Gillie Easdon

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

From Family Traditions to Pottery Powerhouse: Sarah Davis’s Journey with SJD Ceramics

As a young child, Sarah would sit on her grandmother’s lap at the Saskatchewan lake house, doing pottery. Reflecting on that precious time, she doesn’t recall feeling a specific connection to the art; it was more about time with her beloved family. But something must have been planted, as now Sarah has launched SJD Ceramics. She’s a teacher, businessperson, and third-generation ceramic artist, with more than 27,000 followers on Tik Tok.

When Sarah was a teenager, her mother started doing ceramics in their hometown of Tsawwassen. She put her name down on the co-op waiting list. But by the time Sarah was heading to Victoria to start UVic’s Business program in 2019, after two years at Langara School in Vancouver, the waitlist hadn’t budged much.

Finally, in 2020, Sarah had the chance to take a hand building course at Uvic—then COVID hit, and everything shut down. The problem was, she had fallen in love with pottery. Sarah bought a wheel, and her garage in Tsawwassen became a studio. She decided to start making pottery Tik Toks and build her community and following. This pushed her to develop and extend skills quickly. Sarah had to create eye-catching, big, and compelling work to attract and maintain her audience. She still did not consider this a business option but a very time-consuming hobby. Her social media gained traction. It was here, in 2020, that she learned about the Centre of Innovation entrepreneurial co-op at UVic and applied.

Once again, Sarah found herself thinking about the waitlists. Surely she could not be the only person who wanted to do pottery but was stymied by lack of access. In the incubator, she learned to “look for the problem”. BOOM. She knew what the problem was and how to solve it. She applied and won a $5000 Co-op Award and bought a second wheel, clay, glaze chemicals, shelves/cupboards and made some necessary renovations to the garage so it could become a studio. Sarah decided to start a pottery co-op and a ceramics company.

At first, Sarah cold-called people she knew. She had a “what I offer” pdf. It didn’t go great. Then a friend suggested posting it on Tsawwassen Loop, a 12,000-member strong Facebook group, and Sarah built a website. Her classes sold out. She had been running semi-privates, but that was no longer sustainable. It was a turning point for the business.

The Launch Program meets twice a week on Zoom. The speakers are experienced, candid, and interested in the businesses that the students/entrepreneurs are launching. Sarah stressed the commitment of The Coast Capital Innovation Centre team, “they foster a positive environment where people can bounce ideas off everyone. It’s so inspiring.”  From accounting to crafting an effective email, from negotiating contracts to the best ways to share COVID restrictions, the team has been a huge support.

Sarah had not anticipated the community-building aspect of starting a pottery co-op. Anyone can come in and practice in her studio and connect with a common interest. On the sales end of the unexpected, Sarah was thrilled to be offered a contract to create gifts for Aritzia head office staff who had worked on an ecosystem project. She quickly learned how to emboss, complete, and deliver custom vases within five months.

Starting and owning a business solo means “if you don’t like something about it, it’s on you,” shares Sarah.  She sells mugs, vases, etc. at markets, and has found a niche with fire sales on Tik Tok. To date, she has sold roughly 450 pieces and offered 200 class spots for students. Her classes all sell out within a week and she now has four wheels. Also, Sarah’s student base has tripled since she began.

She’s thrilled with her time with the entrepreneurial co-op and encourages prospective young entrepreneurs in school, “Don’t wait until you feel like you’re ready. Just go for it. Ask for help.” Sarah graduated from UVic this Summer.

Written by Gillie Easdon

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.

Entrepreneur Jamieson Fregeau won $10,000 & was named the 2022 Student Entrepreneur National Champion by Enactus

Building a business while managing a full course load is challenging, consuming and hopefully rewarding. For UVic alumni Jamieson Fregrau, President and Co-Founder of Quandri Technologies Inc., building intelligent software robots (digital workers), success came as he was deep in study and entrepreneurship.

Jamieson studied computer engineering at UVic and participated in the ICE entrepreneurial co-op within Coast Capital Innovation Centre (CCIC). He enjoyed the support and motivation from spending time with proactive, like-minded entrepreneurs balancing work and study. With CCIC, he participated in PitchIt and benefited from several guest speakers who were “way ahead of where any of us were,” discussing the problems they were solving and how to get there. “Quandri Technologies Inc. started way faster because of CCIC and the incredible team.”

In early 2022, Jamieson was one of twelve Canadian post-secondary full-time students and entrepreneurs chosen to pitch their businesses for a chance to win $10,000 through Enactus Canada’s Student Entrepreneur National Competition, proudly presented by HSBC Bank Canada. Established in 1997, it is the most extensive national program to focus solely on full-time Canadian post-secondary student entrepreneurs. Jamieson was one of the four finalists and was flown to Toronto for the final round.

Enactus Canada is a national charity and “the country’s largest post-secondary experiential learning platform” that supports student entrepreneurs furthering Canada’s economic, social and environmental health. In 2022, more than “3,000 post-secondary students led 232 community empowerment projects and business ventures last year in communities coast to coast, directly impacting over 21,000 lives.” It is part of a global network of 35 countries.

Jamieson’s (President and Co-Founder) business, founded Quandri Technologies Inc. with his brother Jackson (CEO and Co-Founder), focuses on finding a better way to execute high-volume repetitive processes. Much of the high-volume data processing in healthcare, law, financial, marketing and insurance is straight-forward and time-consuming, but can be tedious and must be accurate. The brothers believed there must be a way to tend to the many other things a business requires. They explored Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and trained bots to complete processes faultlessly and in a fraction of the time. It increases business retention and also “frees people up to do work that we need humans to be doing,” explained Jamieson. Through their research, insurance proved the best industry to start with. They pretrained bots to do renewal reviews, among other processes. A broker would take 30 minutes, whereas a bot takes 2-3 minutes.  Jamieson and Jackson had always wanted to start a business together and Jamieson attributes that to their trust and values alignment. Two years into Quandri Technologies Inc., they can “expand the scope of the things we are automating.” So far, they’ve seen 100% positive ROI, with an 80% savings cost per process and a 965% completion rate.

In September 2022, Jamieson became the 2022 Student Entrepreneur National Champion by Enactus and won $10,000. With this victory, UVic housed the magnificent Enactus Cup for the first time in UVic’s history. This epic cup was returned to Enactus for the next winner in March 2023.

National recognition meant several things for Jamieson. First, the acknowledgment was exciting and the prize money helped continue his work. But for him, meeting other student entrepreneurs was invaluable—Celebrating one another, discussing challenges and wins. Learning about what else is going on across Canada was inspiring.

Since Jamieson became the 2022 Student Entrepreneur National Champion by Enactus, Quandri Technologies Inc. won the 2022 IBAO Innovator of the Year and also raised $2million as they expand into marketing. Through this technology, staff can focus on revenue-producing aspects of the business instead of the minutiae and accelerate company growth, profit and success.

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

COAST CAPITAL INNOVATION CENTRE

In the summer of 2022, Coast Capital Innovation Centre (CCIC) opened their doors to walk-in traffic at their new location in the Mearns Centre for Learning – McPherson Library. An on-campus venture incubator, CCIC helps entrepreneurs – students, faculty and alumni – get the support and mentorship they seek to take their next idea from conception to execution.

Managed by Director Jerome Etwaroo with Andrea Hayes, Program Manager, and Olena Marun, Program Operations and Communications Coordinator, this small but mighty team has been supporting over 1,500 people from the UVic community since 2016, offering a wide range of services including: advice and mentorship; seed funding; training and workshops; connecting clients to advisors; pitch and business plan competitions; and operational space for new ventures to nearly 200 start-up businesses.

Supporting emerging businesses in the community provides an overall well-being not only to the city and province, but to the planet. The impact of the innovation centre’s work has been impressive over the last six years. Etwaroo points out that they have supported a diversity of sectors and environments including oceans; AI; energy, water and infrastructure; digital platforms and apps; and biotechnology, to only name a few.

The library has also played a significant role in student ventures. Engineering & Science librarian Aditi Gupta and Business librarian Emily Nickerson support student ventures through research consultations for finding resources on patents and market research. They collaborate with the Digital Scholarship Commons (DSC) to provide introductory workshops on library resources for each new cohort of CCIC students.

For instance, Paige Whitehead (BSc ’19) created a 3D prototype in the DSC for her biodegradable, carbon sequestering reusable glow stick that is powered with bioluminescence. Inspired by courses in permaculture design and biotechnology, Paige’s start-up business, Nyoka Design Labs, is now having a positive impact on the environment.

Some of the funded real-world applications are also used in homes, including the Sepura garburator that separates solids from liquids, and provides a clean composting solution; and biodegradable Nature Bee beeswax wraps that use the sweet smell of honey, pine tree resin, and jojoba oil to ensure groceries have a longer life span.

At the recent Tech Community Awards hosted by VIATEC, Etwaroo received The Colin Lennox Award for Technology Champion, honouring his deep commitment and passion to making the world a healthier place to live.

The next time you are at the Mearns – McPherson Library, drop by the Coast Capital Innovation Centre office located in the Learning Commons hallway. Your idea could be the next one they help get off the ground.

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 Lisa Abram

 

Oh, What a Night for Coast Capital Innovation Centre!

Oh, What a Night for CCIC! at the 20th Annual Victoria Tech Community Awards

“This award means everything to me. I work hard every single day not just because I believe in the science that VoxCell is creating but because I truly believe in and trust the hard-working team we have. They are my motivation and inspiration.”

-Dr. Karolina Valente, CEO and CSO, VoxCell, Leader of the Year

On Thursday, Dec 8, 2022, the 20th Annual Victoria Tech Community Awards (previously known as the VIATEC Awards) took place at Victoria Conference Centre’s Carson Hall. This vital and spectacular gala spotlights and celebrates some of the year’s most notable companies and individuals within Victoria’s $4 billion tech sector, the fastest-growing technology region in British Columbia. Always a hot, widely anticipated event, the three-year COVID-related hiatus further amplified the excitement. On all counts, this epic evening delivered the promised “more fun than adults are used to.” The raucous 80s-themed night featured creative challenges, arcade games, a singalong with The Choirs YYJ and Marc Jenkins to A-ha’s Take On Me, and much more with charismatic emcees Kim Persley and Benji Duke from Quiz This.

This year, VIATEC sought to refine the categories and evolve the scope and inclusion of everyone doing leading-edge work in Victoria. To accomplish this, they created a coalition with organizations, including iWIST (Island Women in Science and Technology), the Coast Capital Innovation Centre (UVic’s on-campus venture incubator), CIN (Capital Investment Network), Women’s Equity Lab and Alacrity Canada. The panel of coalition delegates or the audience selected all award recipients. “By inviting the other organizations to help shape the categories and select the recipients, we made room for greater participation. We’ve been told the event was more inclusive, and provided a greater sense of belonging for everyone involved. VIATEC’s mission is to cultivate the most cohesive tech community in the world, and this is another step in that direction,” shared VIATEC CEO, Dan Gunn.

Of the 187 nominations, 59 finalists from 47 companies were selected for the 10 awards categories. CCIC startups won three: Leader of the Year, Growth Company of the Year and Innovative Excellence — Hardware. Of the recognition categories, which are not through nominations, three CCIC individuals won the Social Impact Award, the Inclusion Champion Award and The Colin Lennox Award for Technology Champion. All victors  went home with an iconic Russell Papp astronaut trophy.

CCIC finalist MeepMeep was nominated for Startup of the Year with their smart disc-golf accessories. “The nomination came as such a big honour for us and quite a shock to be standing among the giants that we know have been nominated for this award in the past. We are deeply grateful to the team and community around us,” shared CEO Eve Olynyk. Axolotl Bioscience was a finalist for Innovative Excellence – Hardware, and Dr. Stephanie Willerth, CEO and Co-Founder, was also nominated for Leader of the Year. This company advances medicine through innovative bioink technologies that enable 3D printing of humanized tissue models for drug screening applications. Axolotl bioink is derived from all-natural materials and with an environmentally friendly production process. “These nominations reflect the hard work and innovation that our team has been achieving over the past two years,” said Dr. Stephanie Willerth. Sepura, the eco-friendly garbage disposal, was a Product of the Year finalist. Sepura Co-Founder and CEO Victor Nikolov noted, “we were so happy. We’ve put so much work into our product and are about to ship in a couple of months, so it’s great to be nominated for Product of the Year, especially being alongside some really cool products!” Iris Dynamics, developing and manufacturing efficient, intelligent linear electric motors was a finalist for Product of the Year and Employer of the Year. “It means a lot to our whole team to be selected as finalists. We’re a close community at Iris, and we’ve worked very hard together this year, conquering several technical challenges and building an impressive manufacturing facility in Victoria,” stated Kyle Hagen, CTO. Pani Energy CEO Devesh Bharadwaj, was a finalist for Leader of the Year. This company develops economically accessible technologies for clean water and clean energy industries with a cloud-based machine-learning software platform to elevate the efficiency of industrial and city-scale desalination and wastewater treatment plants. Solaires Entreprises Inc. was up for Scale Company of the Year (11-29) and Innovative Excellence – Hardware for their perovskite-based solar inks, revolutionizing solar energy capture. Dr. Sahar Sam, Co-Founder and CSO, shared, “Solaires is focusing on reducing the GHG emissions by developing a new technology. This nomination brings more encouragement to the team to stay focused and move faster towards commercializing our product.” Other CCIC finalists included Origen Air, which creates smart, living air purifiers for Startup of the Year and Product of the Year. Cuboh, a software company that consolidates third-party ordering platforms into one hub for restaurants for Anchor Company of the Year, innovative online auto buying platform VINN for Growth Company of the Year and LetHub, utilizing artificial intelligence to create efficiencies in the property management space, saving time and paperwork for both renters and landlords for Startup of the Year.

Onto the winners. Joni, with Organic & Sustainable Period Care for Everybody, won for

Innovative Excellence – Hardware and the Social Impact Award (Sponsored by: UVIC Innovation Centre). Co-Ceo and Co-Founder Linda Biggs emailed from her women-only trade mission with the Asia Pacific Institute, exploring export options to the Japanese market. “Joni is thrilled to be nominated for our Joni free-vend period care dispenser. Considering that over 30% of the population menstruates, we believe making period care as accessible as toilet paper for businesses and their teams can have a significant positive impact. We’re proud to offer a unique solution that fosters continuous innovation in product development and sustainability and are grateful for the opportunity to share it with the amazing VIATEC community.”

Marine Labs, a global leader in coastal monitoring, provides real-time coastal intelligence from fleets of coastal sensors, transforming marine safety, and building climate resilience. It was a finalist for Growth Company of the Year (Sponsored by: KPMG – LLP), and Dr. Scott Beatty, Founder and CEO was up for Leader of the Year. They won Growth Company of the Year. Dr. Scott Beatty shared that ”winning with the Victoria Tech Community feels amazing. The community is full of vibrant, brilliant and successful tech builders and to be recognized among them is a real honour.”

Sam Mod and the Freshworks team won the Inclusion Champion Award (Sponsored by VanCity).  Freshworks takes a fresh approach to building and delivering affordable, efficient software-as-a-service that works for users and everyone on the team.

The Leader of the Year (Sponsored by: AbeBooks) went to VoxCell CEO and CSO Dr. Karolina Valente. VoxCell offers human-Like cancer tissue models and proprietary bioinks for the drug development industry. Their goal is to change how therapies are tested, allowing oncology drugs to reach the hands of people that need them sooner. They were also finalists for Innovative Excellence – Hardware. “As a leader, I aim to create the inspiring vision of what VoxCell will be. To be nominated for this award carries extra weight for me as an immigrant woman. Moving from Brazil to Portugal and then to Victoria, starting a biotech startup company can be a daunting task, especially in a male-dominated industry where the majority of the capital is focused on male-run companies. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and small at moments. The recognition, I hope, serves as an inspiration to others who feel that they cannot start a company or follow their dream because of gender or immigrant status. It is completely in your power to do so, with hard work and drive and the right team around you.”

Jerome Etwaroo, Director of CCIC, was recognized for his passionate work with The Colin Lennox Award for Technology Champion (Sponsored by: Reed Pope Law Corporation). He stated, ”I am honoured to receive this award. The award confirms that our work at the Coast Capital Innovation Centre plays a key role in our local community. We are proud of the finalists of the 2022 Victoria Tech Community Awards from CCIC and Alumni of the University of Victoria. UVic entrepreneurs are global leaders and play a major role in strengthening the local tech ecosystem.”

What a year and night for recognizing Victoria’s tech sector’s incredible expertise, advances and scope. VIATEC CEO Dan Gunn stated, “CCIC plays a critical role in our region’s innovation ecosystem. Their programs and support provide aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs with vital tools and connections, giving them a critical head start. We’ve been honoured to work with them on our shared interests in supporting and growing our local tech community. Seeing so many of their current and past clients among the finalists for this year’s Victoria Tech Community Awards speaks volumes about the ongoing impact.”

A huge congratulations to everyone nominated and all the winners for your hard work, vision and perseverance. It was an evening to recognize the incredible innovation in the tech community but also to connect, laugh, celebrate and have a heck of a lot of fun. See you next year!

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

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Eve builds 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.

Written by Gillie Easdon

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.