Even from a firm foundation, it’s not easy to grow a business. At every stage, entrepreneurs face any number of challenges. But that’s where LaunchPad PEI lends a helping hand.
As a non-profit incubator, and part of the start-up ecosystem that supports the growth of new companies in Prince Edward Island, LaunchPad exists to help information technology and bioscience business owners scale up to commercialize, hire employees, or expand their existing operations and market reach.
It does this by providing access to key business networks, mentors, and other resources to local companies who have revenue and/or employees, and to foreign entrepreneurs through the Federal Start-up Visa Program.
This, in turn, gives the province “a strong ecosystem for entrepreneurs, overall,” says LaunchPad Business Development Officer Stephen Conrad. “That feeds back in and builds the economic capacity for continued innovation and growth.”
Julia Ashworth, for one, is glad it does. She and her husband emigrated to Charlottetown from Manchester, U.K. a year ago to start a video app company through LaunchPad’s network partner organization for early-stage entrepreneurs, Startup Zone. “We were looking to start a business properly and grow,” she says. “What was so attractive was they really wanted us to succeed. It was very pro-business. They were offering us educational support and office space at a very good rate. Through the University of Prince Edward Island and Holland College, they were able to connect us with computer developers. It really was a whole ecosystem of support.”
The approach is deliberate. LaunchPad started as a provincial government program in 2002, and has evolved to provide support to 23 public and private-sector business development and innovation organizations on the Island. Now, coupled with business development officers from Innovation PEI, “we have working knowledge of the available support and have connections within each government department,” Conrad says. “We work over a number of years directly with clients to help them grow and increase jobs. That’s how we measure our own success. We really take a hands-on approach with our companies.”
Or, to be more precise, a helping “hands-on approach”. •