KAST Becoming an Entrepreneur

Taking the Leap! Steps to Becoming an Entrepreneur

KAST Becoming an Entrepreneur

Owning your own business is a gamble, but there are some critical steps to help increase the chances that your entrepreneurial dreams become a successful reality.

Anyone can be an entrepreneur, but not everybody is going to be successful. Entrepreneurship takes a lot of experience, hard work, and serious determination.

And while there are no hard-and-fast prerequisites to becoming an entrepreneur, the primary criterion is that your business must add or provide value. If your idea, product, or service doesn’t address a common pain point – doesn’t bring value to the lives of your target market – there really won’t be any reason for people to take notice.

If you want to start a business but don’t know where to start, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many of us have come to the conclusion that we want to create the work we love. Take on the responsibility of a business that’s better aligned with our goals, lifestyle, and aspirations so as to make money for ourselves rather than someone else.

Regardless of the motivation, the goal is to be your own boss. You’ve got the entrepreneurial dream, now you just need to know how to make it a reality. Here are a few important steps to get you started:

Identify the right business for you.

The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you can achieve it in just about any area or discipline. If you can think it, chances are you can create a business around it. If you haven’t already identified the focus of your business, start with your skills, expertise, interests, and passions. Explore how you might translate what you already have, know, or do into a product or service that has the potential to be successful. Entrepreneurship is hard work, so something that matters to you, something you care about, something that you specialize in, is a great place to start.

Determine if you need additional education, skills, or training

While you may not need a formal education to be an entrepreneur, it doesn’t mean you may not have to expand your education or skill set. If you want to start a tech company, experience in business, computer programming, and marketing could all be valuable. Looking to prototype a new product? You may need to explore training in the various facets of 3D print manufacturing. Of course, some sectors will likely require some type of specific education, such as your own bookkeeping, accounting, or law firm.

Market validation or customer discovery

Don’t take for granted that just because you think there’s a need that there actually is. Not every business appeals to everybody. Consider the support and guidance of a Venture Accelerator Program (VAP), with whom you can engage in thorough customer discovery and market validation processes to help you more accurately gauge not just the market for your business, but your potential for success. Identify that others feel the pinch that you do, and that your product or service will, in fact, have an audience that’s interested.

Plan your business

Before you formally start your business, you need to have a business plan. A business plan lays out any objectives you have as well as your strategy for achieving those objectives. This plan is important for getting investors on board, as well as measuring how successful your business is. If you’ve participated in a VAP, it’s a good bet that at least part, if not most, of this step, will be achieved through the process.

Network

While networking is important regardless of profession or sector, it’s critical for entrepreneurs. Networking – attending events and programs in your sector or perhaps spending a day or two each week at your local co-work space – allows you to connect with potential professional support, qualified employees, clients, and maybe even possible investors.

Exploring co-op or student work programs

Once it’s time to hire, look for programs that encourage and support utilizing qualified students in need of professional work experience as they complete their studies. Co-op and student work programs allow employers to take advantage of wage subsidies while providing a beneficial professional experience to students. If a successful fit, these programs can lay the ground-work for reliable and trusted future employment opportunities as well.

Marketing

Marketing your business starts right from the outset and continues throughout the life of your business. If you’ve fulfilled the requirements of a  VAP, your customer discovery work should have effectively started the ball rolling in your early marketing efforts.

Regardless, marketing is challenging, no matter how you slice it! But knowing your target audience is half the battle and is essential for communicating exactly how your business adds value and provides a solution to your prospective customers. You need to know where they live – email, social media, telephone, a combination of them all.

And you need to concisely and consistently provide compelling reasons why you’re the solution they need.

Interested in more information about KAST entrepreneur programs and support? Learn more HERE or call 1.250.362.5052.

Selkirk College GLOWS returns to KAST

GLOWS Technology Programs for Youth Return to KAST!

Selkirk College GLOWS returns to KAST

GLOWS technology programs, an important Selkirk College youth initiative, is coming back under the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) umbrella with some exciting upcoming events and programming.

GLOWS (Growing & Learning Opportunities With STEAM) provides opportunities to help youth ages 5-19 find inspiration for their post-secondary education in a variety of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) disciplines.

This unique program includes summer camps, RobotGames, the Kootenay Contraption Contest, Girls in Engineering, and the Quantum Leaps speaker series. Events will be held in Trail, Nelson and Castlegar in the near future.

KAST created GLOWS in 2007 and ran the program for nine years until Selkirk College became the delivery lead.

It’s been a big growth year for KAST,” says KAST Executive Director Cam Whitehead. “We’re thrilled to lead such great tech-focused programming for Kootenay youth. It’s so important to get kids from all backgrounds interested in STEAM fields from an early age.

Selkirk College and KAST are longtime collaborators with major tech-focused initiatives including the MIDAS Fabrication Lab in Trail, the Web Development Program launching in fall 2019 and a Digital Fabrication Program to be launched in 2020.

Fostering an interest and passion for learning these disciplines at a young age is vital to success when students reach the post-secondary stage of their education,” says John Kincaid, Selkirk College’s Vice President of Students & Advancement. “GLOWS will continue to grow and thrive under KAST which will be of great benefit for the minds of future leaders in science, technology, problem solving and creativity.”

Upcoming events and programming:

  • Summer camps: A series of camps that will run for one to three days will be organized at MIDAS Lab (Trail) during the summer of 2019.
  • Kootenay Contraption Contest: Students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 are invited to imagine, design and illustrate a “contraption” that solves a specific problem for a big prize.
  • Quantum Leaps: A workshop series to engage girls in grades 10-12 in science, engineering and technology-related post-secondary education and careers.
  • RobotGames:Youth from around the region will build, program and deck out their robots to enter RobotGames, a fun and free-spirited event full of prizes.

GLOWS Technology Programs for Youth Return to KAST - Robo Games

GLOWS provides opportunities for youth to immerse themselves into fun and exciting programs throughout the year including the annual RobotGames that has been taking place in the gym at the Selkirk College Castlegar Campus for the last three years.

We’re always looking for sponsors, judges and volunteers to keep this valuable programming going,” says Whitehead. “Get in touch with us if you can help out. We’d love to run these programs in every community across the Kootenays.”

For more information about GLOWS programs and events, please contact:

KAST – Cam Whitehead: cam@kast.com- 250-888-0949

Selkirk College– Bob Hall: bhall@selkirk.ca- 250-551-4185

selkirk college GLOWS technology programs for youth

About Selkirk College: Selkirk College has been providing regional post-secondary opportunities since 1966. The college serves more than 13,000 learners in eight locations across the West Kootenay and Boundary region that includes more than 2,500 full-tine domestic students, 700 international students and 10,000 community education learners. The college helps build remarkable futures through programs that educate and train students for careers in health care, tourism, trades, social services, the arts, business, technology, forestry and early childhood education. The college’s Applied Research & Innovation Centre (ARIC) located in Castlegar partners with government, industry and business to help build a stronger and more vibrant rural economy.  

About KAST: The Kootenay Association for Science & Technology (KAST) has supported technology-focused entrepreneurs since 1998. Its purpose is to:

  • Build a recognized, vibrant and prosperous science and technology community by connecting and solving problems for entrepreneurs; and
  • To work with business and communities to support and showcase the opportunities provided by science, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation in our region.

The association runs two facilities: MIDAS Lab (Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration and Studies), a digital fabrication laboratory in Trail, and the Nelson Innovation Center (NIC), the new digital tech sector hub in Nelson.

 

 

KAST - why you should join a Venture Accelerator Program

6 Reasons to Participate in an Accelerator Program to Launch or Advance your Startup

KAST - why you should join a Venture Accelerator Program

When you plan your travels, a map helps guide your route to a successful and enjoyable trip. Likewise, a Venture Accelerator Program will help guide your way along the best route to success.

You’ve got a great new idea for a product or service. You may have even initiated the process of developing a business. Chances are, in these early stages, you could use some helpful advice, direction and maybe even a little funding. That’s where an accelerator program comes in. If offers the resources and expertise of someone who’s successfully traveled the path to help you get all three.

If you need a little nudge about participating, here are six good reasons why you should consider joining an accelerator:

1. Comprehensive support

As you may already know, developing, launching, and operating a startup can be a challenging and often lonely business. That’s where an accelerator program can help. When you work within an accelerator, you receive valuable support from experienced mentors or Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIR). In addition to the direction, experience, and knowledge, they’re also there for emotional support.

2. Accelerated knowledge

Providing a ton of information based on the years of experience and skills that each mentor, or EIR, has amassed is what makes an accelerator program what it is. Access to this concentrated amount of information allows you to make your way through the various steps far more quickly and efficiently than trying to go it alone.

Accelerator programs offer you the opportunity to leverage the years of accumulated wisdom and experience available, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. As a result, you are better positioned to develop and launch your startup in a more calculated, strategic way, improving your chances of success.

3. Skills development

Focus on teaching the skills essential to launching and running a business, including sales and marketing, customer discovery, communications, finance, and sometimes even technical skills provide the foundation of an accelerator program.

Accelerators can also help you share your skills with other startup founders in the program, providing a great testing ground for disseminating your skills later on to your own team.

4. Risk management

Front of mind for any startup founder is, more often than not, the risk of failure. It can seem as though there is risk in everything you take on. This includes the market you’ve targeted, your product, and the concept you’re presenting.

The success of a startup depends on how the various functions – product development, pricing, technology, operations, customer service, marketing, finance, and HR management – have been performed. How each of these components is addressed has a direct impact on the success or failure of the enterprise.

An accelerator can identify the risks within your concept and help you work on minimizing them. Also, those within the program can provide you with the direction in proactively taking on risk and managing it effectively.

5. A bigger-picture, long-term view

As a founder, particularly if you’re jumping into startup waters for the first time, it can seem impossible to see beyond the first six months or year. However, in order to ensure your chances for success, it’s critical to work toward a much longer view and outcome. Accelerators help you see the entire forest in addition to the individual trees.

An accelerator program EIR can help you anticipate complexities or roadblocks and help you to navigate them more effectively. They can ask the questions that get you thinking bigger picture. They’ll also suggest the tools, strategies, and tactics to help get you there.

6. Motivation and morale

There is a spirit of collaboration in the accelerator program experience and it adds motivation and inspiration with each step.  Your EIR or mentor has been there, both in their own business as well as coaching other startups, and they serve as a powerful motivating force.

Doubts and challenges are part and parcel of the startup process, and when you connect with other accelerator participants, hearing about their self-doubts and challenges, it can be highly inspiring and motivational.

Interested in how an accelerator program can help launch or advance your startup? Check out the BC Venture Accelerator Program HERE!

 

KAST receives $15,000 for inclusive programs at Nelson Tech Club

KAST receives $15,000 for Programs at Nelson Tech Club

KAST receives $15,000 for inclusive programs at Nelson Tech Club

The Kootenay Association for Science and Technology received $15,000 from the Discovery Foundation Technology Education Program to deliver inclusive programming for all ages at the Nelson Tech Club.

“These programs will be a perfect introduction to using technology,” says Cam Whitehead, executive director of KAST, “for anyone who wants to use tech to live better, work smarter, or just build something for fun.”

The Nelson Tech Club, located at the Nelson and District Youth Centre, is a barrier-free public hackerspace for people of all ages to learn, share and play using technology — including 3-D printing, robotics, software, design and more.

The weekly drop-in programs will start July 3rd, 2019, and run for six months on Wednesday nights.

This application supports KAST’s aim to establish an inclusive digital technology community around the Nelson Innovation Centre, which recently received $100,000 from the Rural Dividend Fund.

“We want all people to be able to benefit from new opportunities created by tech and innovation,” says Whitehead, “and that means creating a community space to learn new skills.”

The Nelson Tech Club, launched in 2012, comprises over 500 members and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds.

Interested in attending the program? Please contact the Nelson Tech Club.

KAST steps for startup growth

A Growth Strategy to Help Prepare and Sustain Your Startup

KAST steps for startup growth

There is a growth strategy you can follow in order to properly position your startup for sustained success.

With only 50 percent of startups making it successfully past the five-year mark, it’s important to have a smart growth strategy – a roadmap for long-term success – to ensure you’re not only prepared for the various inevitable bumps and roadblocks along the way but have the tools to overcome them.

Know Your Value Proposition

If you don’t fully understand your startup’s value proposition – what makes the benefits of your products or services crystal clear – you’re already behind the proverbial 8-ball. The first fundamental step towards developing a smart and effective strategy for growth is being able to explain, without hesitation, how your idea or startup is uniquely qualified to meet or even exceed your prospective customers’ expectations.

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for many startups to either bury their value proposition in buzzwords or trite, meaningless slogans neglecting to highlight it in their marketing or on their website – or it’s so vague they have difficulty identifying it at all!

“Many entrepreneurs lost out, due to never truly articulating a compelling value proposition,” says Michael Skok, VC and Forbes contributor. “Establishing a substantive value proposition is critical if you want to start the journey from your ‘idea’ to building a successful company.”

Your startup’s value proposition is arguably the most important component of your overall messaging, for marketing and otherwise. Startups that can’t identify and clearly convey their unique value proposition will be challenged when it comes to converting sales, growing the business, engaging with potential investors, and becoming market leaders.

You don’t need a huge marketing budget to clearly articulate what makes your business uniquely beneficial – just careful consideration of your product or service from the perspective of your users. It only has to be as long as a headline, sub-headline, and maybe a few succinct bullet points.

Thoroughly Identify Your Customer

Identifying your target, your customer, is fundamental to the process of creating an effective, yet realistic growth strategy. If you don’t clearly understand your target, you’re less likely to provide your customers with what they really need. In fact, chances are greater you’ll iterate on the wrong product enhancements, run with inaccurate marketing messages, and other costly mistakes.

There are several ways to help  identify your customers:

  • Draw on Personal Networks: Don’t be afraid to tap your personal network — friends, family, colleagues, funders, mentors — for feedback and to help examine your product or service. You can use their feedback to help validate – or not – the assumptions and hypotheses you’ve come up with.
  • Launch a survey: Issue surveys via social media, email, or newsletters. Ask pointed questions with regards to the problem you’ve identified and gather feedback to validate.
  • Analyze Market Data: Look to your competitors for information and insights related to target markets. To whom does your competition market? Why do they choose to use them? How are the competition effectively addressing your target and the problem?

Use the data you’ve collected to help develop your buyer personas – the fictional representations of your ideal customers, their unique characteristics, and other qualities.

Keep an Eye on the Competition

Monitoring the competition is helpful for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that your competitors may very well have already solved the challenges that you are currently facing. Follow their progress and you may discover insights regarding possible shortcuts to success.

“One of the reasons why people do not analyze the competition is, in my opinion, the fear of discovering that their product is not as good as their competitors’ product,” says Gilles Bertrand, global commercial lead at Shire. “But you cannot hide from reality — it’s better to face it and improve quickly or pivot your plan if required. Another reason is that they simply do not know how to analyze the competitive landscape.”

Establish Key Performance Indicators

It’s quite difficult to accurately measure your startup success without first defining a few key performance indicators. Startup founders who focus on the key performance indicators that most affect the growth of their startups and dedicate resources to those areas are those at the top of their game.

“Founders cannot hope to grow a company in any meaningful way without an almost obsessive focus on its KPIs,” says Phil Nadel, co-founder and managing director at Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners. “This focus must not be limited to the KPIs themselves, for they are merely measurements of outcomes. We look for founders to have an understanding of what levers can be pulled and what tweaks can be made to improve the business, which will then be reflected in its KPIs.”

The most popular growth metrics include:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): The price you pay to acquire a new customer. Calculate CAC by dividing the total costs associated with acquisition by the total number of new users over a period.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (LV): The total net profit attributed to a customer during his or her relationship with the company. Calculate LV by dividing average order divided by one minus the repeat purchase rate. Subtract that number by CAC.
  • Burn Rate: The rate at which a company spends capital. Calculate the burn rate by defining an observed data period. How much money did you start with at the beginning of the quarter? How much money did you “burn” during the quarter? Divide by the number of months in the observed data period.
  • Gross Profit Margin: Measures revenues after paying the cost of goods sold. Calculate gross profit margin by dividing revenue minus the cost of goods sold.
  • Conversion Rate: Measures the desired action that consumers take. Calculate the conversion rate by dividing the number of conversions by the number of total visits.

Keep front of mind those KPIs that have the biggest impact on your definition of success.

Hire Very Carefully

A bad hire can cost your startup in many ways and can be as high as at least 30 percent of an employee’s first-year earnings. Bringing on the right people is integral, throughout the life of your business but especially in the tenuous early stages. For early-stage startups, a five-figure investment in the wrong employee can cause a significant loss of traction, momentum, and profits. So, finding the right people to work for your startup is not easy, but it is extremely important.

“The culture is what creates the foundation for all future innovation,” CEO Brian Chesky said in a 2013 company memo. “If you break the culture, you break the machine that creates your products.”

Scale Conservatively

Avoid premature scaling by monitoring spending habits, avoiding debt, and limiting overheads. Spending too much money before establishing a product-market fit is the number one reason for premature failure.

Don’t jump into renting office space prematurely. One of the easiest ways to maintain a low burn rate is renting coworking space and the startups who choose to cowork over traditional office space typically save tens of thousands of dollars per year. It also allows for the room to rapidly scale up or down without incurring fees or breaking expensive lease agreements.

Startup teams that work in tech-centric coworking spaces can also the benefit of exposure and introductions to VC, targeted educational programming, and access to resources designed to help them scale faster.