Sault Ste. Marie Needs More Entrepreneurs

StartUP Sault Ste. Marie recently celebrated three years as a catalyst for building a supportive and knowledgeable “Startup Community” in Sault Ste. Marie.

Through our partnerships, activities, programs and tools, StartUP Sault Ste. Marie has worked to engage local entrepreneurs, facilitated the sharing of knowledge, helped educate the business community and promoted entrepreneurship as a satisfying career option.

Sault Ste. Marie, as with many communities, has challenges to overcome to achieve continued growth, support its citizens and in general remain a great place to live, work and play. To realize these broader goals, it is imperative the community’s business sector continue to grow, and thrive.

For our business community to continue to grow, Sault Ste. Marie needs more entrepreneurs — more entrepreneurs to start new businesses, more entrepreneurs to take over existing businesses and more entrepreneurs to create new products and services.

Sault Ste. Marie has a shortage of entrepreneurs. We need more to achieve growth and prosperity for our community. We need to graduate more entrepreneurs, not just employees. We need to foster more interest in entrepreneurship as a career option for youth. We need to support creativity and the development of new ideas, solutions and opportunities.

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about running a business. It is a mindset. It is about solving problems and being innovative. Successful entrepreneurs solve their customers’ problems and pain points – sometimes even creating solutions to problems we don’t realize we have yet.

Entrepreneurship in our schools should involve enhancing our creative, problem solving skills with a healthy mix of studying successful entrepreneurs and what it takes to start and grow a business.

We need to ensure our elementary and high schools are teaching entrepreneurship. We should be teaching our young people meaningful technology skills. We should be improving creativity and problem-solving skills.

Finally, we should be mashing all of this together through opportunities in idea generation, business simulations and the opportunity to launch real-world businesses

Sault Ste. Marie’s post-secondary programs need to reinforce the entrepreneurial mindset by incorporating entrepreneurship into more programs. We can’t expect to graduate more entrepreneurs when their exposure to the subject is limited to one or two classes during their three or four years of schooling.

In order to build an entrepreneurial culture in Sault Ste. Marie, we need to develop a mindset where entrepreneurship is accepted and encouraged as a career option, the same as getting a job. After all, times have changed. Millennials are now faced with the reality that there are no job guarantees.

We must engage more with potential entrepreneurs and better promote the various programs and services offered to assist in starting local businesses.

To better service existing entrepreneurs, the community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem should collaborate more to assist entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses.

The ‘Catalyst’ — a project that is led by the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) and partnered with StartUP Sault Ste. Marie, aims to create a “one-door approach” to services in Sault Ste. Marie for small business assistance.

The project team includes representatives from various organizations in the community such as the Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, BDC, Social Enterprise Evolution and more.

The objective is to coordinate services, identify gaps, and develop tools for directing entrepreneurs more efficiently to the available services in the community. Building on the Startup Roadmap, developed last year by StartUP Sault, which identified services available at the Idea, Launch and Growth phases, the project aims to create a “continuum” of services to guide entrepreneurs on each step of their journey.

The one-door approach will mean that no matter which organization an individual contacts first – they can be seamlessly pointed to the appropriate organization or resource available in the community to best assist them.

Despite best efforts of these partners, the general public does not often understand what services exist in the community to help start or grow a business. The Catalyst project is designed to help in this regard.

As I have laid out here, there are many things we can do together as a community and entrepreneurial ecosystem that can enhance the potential success and growth of our small business sector.

We will continue to make progress and pursue our goals, but it is important to understand that we all have a role to play in building up our community. It is much easier to build when we are all pushing in the same direction.

Find more information about Startup Sault online, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter to keep up-to-date on Startup Sault events, startup tips and other useful information.


Nevin Buconjic is a serial entrepreneur, author and community builder. Nevin is also the Founder and Community Lead for StartUP Sault, a volunteer organization helping to build a strong and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sault Ste. Marie.

Nevin Buconjic Represents Sault Ste. Marie in Ottawa to help Build Canada’s Entrepreneurship Community

As many of you know, I am passionate about entrepreneurship and small business, coming from a background of small business and economic development. In my free time I operate multiple businesses, and I have written two books on small business as well.

About a year ago, I took the initiative to apply on behalf of Sault Ste. Marie, to join Startup Canada – a pan-Canadian network to provide entrepreneurs with a single doorway to enter their local entrepreneur community to access mentors, space, funding and support to start and grow their businesses and to connect with other startup founders.

Startup Canada, and its 19 Startup Communities are volunteer organizations and are led by entrepreneurs, not government. We are grass-roots and inclusive, with the goal of building more entrepreneurial communities across the country – in an effort to connect and strengthen the infrastructure for new startups and existing businesses.


Requirements for becoming a Startup Community include building a team of volunteers and entrepreneurs, forging partnerships with community organizations that deliver programming and resources to the business community, and drafting a clear vision and plan of action.

Sault Ste. Marie was accepted and joined 16 other communities – 3 more were just recently announced in November — Toronto, Charlottetown and Halifax.

We formally launched Startup Sault in March 2014 with our first event – Startup Drinks, a casual networking opportunity to connect local entrepreneurs and business owners. Over 30 people attended the first event, and it proved a great opportunity to meet new people, discuss ideas, and hopefully collaborate on future projects.

Startup Drinks is now held every two months, and recently we introduced our latest program – Startup Book Club.

Startup Book Club participants read and discuss the latest business-related books (as well as classics) to glean tips, models and strategies to take their business to the next level. Startup Book Club creates an opportunity for local entrepreneurs, students, small business owners and others to discuss not only the content of each book, but their own strategies and experiences as well.

The first book choice was “The $100 Startup”, by Chris Guillebeau and the next choice for February 5th (6:00-8:00PM) at Q Café & Bakery is “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age.”

Startup Sault continues to be involved in other events through our community partners, including the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, SSM Chamber of Commerce and the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie.

In May, Startup Sault offered a 5-day training session from the Canadian Entrepreneurship Institute via live streaming. The training featured keynote lectures by world-leading innovators, entrepreneurs, educators and policy makers; attendees gained the knowledge, tools and network necessary to make a meaningful impact in advancing innovation and entrepreneurship in their community, as well as their own business or organization.

MP HayesJust recently, I represented Sault Ste. Marie in Ottawa, meeting with Members of Parliament (including Sault MP – Bryan Hayes), Senators and Ministers as part of Startup Canada Day on the Hill.

Startup Canada Day on the Hill is a collaboration of Canada’s entrepreneurial community and partnering political and government leaders. Drawing nearly 1,000 attendees throughout the day, including some of Canada’s top entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, media personalities and government decision makers, the program is filled with meaningful government roundtables, media interviews, fireside discussions, TED-style keynotes, entrepreneur bootcamps, on-site mentorship, and an evening ‘Startup Soiree’, showcasing entrepreneurs and their products from across Canada.

15742921278_2d73084880_oI spoke on stage to share perspectives of entrepreneurs from the community and to the impact that Startup Sault Ste. Marie has had over the last 12 months in fuelling economic development through entrepreneurship. I also worked with public servants and industry leaders to educate them on how they can work with grassroots, entrepreneur organizations like Startup Canada to accelerate entrepreneurial growth in Canada.

The two days of events were jam packed with meetings, events and networking. I had the opportunity to meet and work with my colleagues from other Startup Communities across the country. Not only was it a team building exercise, but we all worked together to impress upon our federally elected officials – even Prime Minister Harper — the importance of supporting entrepreneurship, and supporting the Startup Canada movement.

Prime Minister PicIt was an incredible experience.

In just two short years, Startup Canada has grown to become the leading entrepreneurship organization in Canada with more than 85,000 entrepreneurs, 400 partners and 300 volunteers.  We continue to build on this momentum.

Startup Sault also continues on its mission to strengthen and build a more entrepreneurial community in Sault Ste. Marie, and other Startup Communities across the country do the same.

Startup Canada’s goal is to reach 100 Startup Communities over the next two years, truly connecting entrepreneurs across the country — driving competitiveness, innovation, job creation, and economic growth along the way.

I hope you will join us in our movement. Together, let’s take risks, generate big ideas, and push the economy forward.

About Startup Sault:

Startup Sault connects new entrepreneurs with the small business resources available in the community, and provides the support of existing entrepreneurs who are building successful companies.

For more information about Startup Sault, visit  Follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter ( to keep up to date on Startup Sault events, startup tips and other useful information.