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Business accelerator backed by former Dragon helps businesses grow

Business accelerator backed by former Dragon helps businesses grow

Neige and Pippa Blair, sisters-in-law based in Calgary, are set to launch their natural deodorant in the US much sooner than they had imagined. In September 2015, their Routine brand saw its distribution across Canada double from 150 stores to a massive 300 stores.

“We are not so aggressive,” said Pippa Blair. “We are more of an organic marketing company. We want to have steady growth, but not have our sales so high that we cannot fulfil orders, and have good relations with our distributors.”

The vigorous growth is a result of the two entrepreneurs getting involved with District Ventures, an accelerator for businesses looking to become successful quickly, which is also based in Calgary.

District Ventures provides businesses with access to a range of advisers specializing in everything from, finance to packaging to strategy, and matches them up with mentors.

The accelerator is the brainchild of marketing entrepreneur Arlene Dickinson, a former Dragons’ Den investor, who identified a gap in the market.

“There is a lot of help in Canada for startups, but there is not much help for early-stage businesses that have started to get some traction in the marketplace,” she told CBC News. “They have started to make some money, and they need to grow in scale quickly. There really is nothing in the market for that in Canada.” 

While most accelerators focus primarily on energy or technology startups, District Ventures concentrates on packaged and consumer goods, making it unique among business accelerators in Canada.

After spending eight seasons on Dragons’ Den, Dickinson left the program in 2014. She believes there is a prevailing trend in consumerism for food and drink that are good for our health and wellbeing, which she saw as an opportunity to help entrepreneurs concentrating on those kinds of products.

Participants stay in the accelerator for six months, which is open to entrepreneurs across Canada. Entrepreneurs from Vancouver have already taken advantage of the accelerator, paying $550 a month for access to office space, conference rooms and presentations on topics such as financial structuring, marketing, packaging and sales.

While aspiring entrepreneurs can benefit immensely from accelerators like District Ventures, they can get themselves to the stage where they require such assistance more quickly with a University of Canada West (UCW) master of business administration (MBA) degree.

The UCW MBA program focuses on business education, corporate training and executive education, and can be taken on campus or as an online MBA, boosting graduate employability by providing the skills needed to forge effective and efficient careers in the fast-paced global economy.