Someone would be hard pressed to not notice Elgin County is home to a plethora of creative, hard working entrepreneurs. For those who attended the 2016 Enterprise Elgin competition at the New Sarum Diner Thursday, October 20th, that fact was accentuated.

It was a friendly, encouraging environment for the five competitors of the Dragon’s Den style event: Rachel Webber of The Stable Grounds, Garrett Vanderwyst of Kingsmill CNG, Ryan Harris of Century Chocolates, Jill Bond of Groovy Moon, and Debbie Hope of Dixon’s Feed Service.

Each presented a brief history of their business, their vision for the future, and how the $8,000 prize of cash and services would help them reach their goals.

The Stable Grounds, an equine therapy centre for first responders wrestling PTSD, and Kingsmill CNG, a company looking to be one of the first full service stations for compressed natural gas trucking fleets, are both start-up initiatives; Dixon’s Feed Services is an exemplary business succession story whose new owner is working to enhance their facility and customer offerings; and Century Chocolates along with Groovy Moon are fresh-faced businesses, who having tasted success, are looking to grow their labors-of-love into meaningful employment for themselves and others in their community. 

Jack Baribeau, (Elgin Innovation Centre) returned this year as one of the four judges adjacent to Alan Smith (Elgin County Economic Development), Kevin Jackson (Elgin Business Resource Centre), and Karyn Silliker (Meridian Credit Union). Each judge asked a question or two of the business owner after their presentation, taking notes to compare at their deliberation.

Sarah Foshay of Smart Dental Hygiene, the 2015 Enterprise Elgin Winner, addressed the audience allowing the judges to step aside to share thoughts and determine a winner. Sarah offered advice to the competitors as a past participant, “Whether you win or not, just by being a finalist in this competition, you are going to be in the limelight– whether you like it or not!” She encouraged the finalists to use the media and local attention to promote their business.

Everyone in the crowd seemed to resist the temptation of a hand-and-table drum roll when Jeff Sheridan of EBRC announced the winner. Jack Baribeau later said, “While all the judges agreed it was a close call, and each are great businesses bound to benefit the community, there was consensus among the judges that Century Chocolates was the winner this year.”

The judges light-heartedly assured the award was not granted due to the chocolate samples provided but based on how the prize would impact the Century Chocolate’s goals and their calculations of how many jobs their growth would cultivate.

The Elgin Innovation Centre was pleased to take part in the event and hopes you will investigate each of the finalists and support their ventures where you can.

2016 Enterprise Elgin Finalists:
• Rachel Webber – The Stable Grounds, West Elgin
• Garrett Vanderwyst – Kingsmill CNG, Aylmer
• Ryan Harris – Century Chocolates, West Lorne
• Jill Bond – Groovy Moon, Malahide Township
• Debbie Hope – Dixon’s Feed Service, West Lorne

2016 Enterprise Elgin Sponsors:
Meridian Credit Union
Elgin Innovation Centre
Dowler Karn
Redding Designs Inc
Human Resources Partners 4 Business
Hamilton Ward & Cathers
Local Employment Planning Council
Aylmer & Area Chamber of Commerce
St Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce
World Financial Group – Kathy Cook
Soar With It Inc.
BlackCat Concepts
County of Elgin Economic Development