Myron Gomes learned about “the real-life challenges of running a small business” by working part-time at his family’s restaurant. It is what inspired the 23-year-old Telfer BCom graduate to devise a digital rewards punch card to encourage customer loyalty at restaurants and small retail outlets. The result is Spoonity, a company that Gomes and Max Bailey, a Queen’s University mechanical engineering grad, pitched to a panel of four seasoned business professionals in a recent competition marking the close of this year’s Startup Garage, an initiative of the The Ottawa Technology Transfer Network.
Gomes and Bailey won the competition — reminiscent of CBC TV’s Dragons’ Den, albeit a gentler version— which pitted them against seven other student start-ups from the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Algonquin College. The pitches ranged from an office management tool to a campus computer repair service and a solid shaving bar.
So far, more than 70 merchants in Ottawa, Halifax and Toronto have signed on with Spoonity. “We’re generating a lot of traction and positive feedback,” says Gomes, who hopes to run pilot projects in Europe and India.
The graduation day pitch session “demonstrates how far these students have developed their businesses, from concepts to customer engagement,” says Joe Irvine, director of the University of Ottawa's Technology Transfer and Business Enterprise, which has operated Startup Garage with the Ottawa Technology Transfer Network for the past three years.
This year, eight start-ups involving 21 students were granted $20,000 each, mentorship and space at Invest Ottawa’s offices to further develop their businesses over three months during the summer. The final competition was the culmination of a year of intensive work in which students learned all aspects of running a business — from developing winning pitches to marketing and accounting — under the guidance of the Startup Garage team and successful local entrepreneurs who volunteered their time.
An information session for budding entrepreneurs interested in presenting their business ideas to Startup Garage 2013 will be held at the Agora in the University Centre on September 27 at 4:30 p.m.
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