The Saint John town hall reinforced many of the ideas and key messages that we have been hearing throughout the rest of the Cross Canada Tour. Issues like one-stop-shopping for entrepreneurial support and youth mentorship connection programs were once again among the leading ideas pitched to the Town Hall. But somehow, once again, our Town Hall Teams managed to bring forward a few completely new community-backed project ideas that we had never heard of before, and even a few novel and creative approaches to delivering on the tried and true solutions. Let’s dive right into these unique projects and approaches.
Wildfire: An online web portal (with an awesome name that alone deserves recognition in this blog post) that provides you with all the key information, resources, and support you need to startup and advance your business idea. The unique take on Wildfire, is that the interface would open by asking you to answer a basic suite of questions about your business (a triage tree of sorts if you will) and through a decision logic architecture the program would direct you to the best and most relevant resources that you need, directly tailored to your current stage of business development, or the challenge your firm is facing. Their role out plan hit all the right markers including community stakeholder outreach to identify and curate the best resources and support networks, a pilot launch to work out the kinks, and a new requirement for users of the service to contribute back in-kind, sharing their stories of success, providing guidance on how they used the available tools and resources to make their business grow, and updating Wildfire’s resource database with any new tools, programs, or networks that they uncovered along their business journey. And of course, once this tool is out there and functioning for Saint John, it should catch on like Wildfire across the rest of the country and “set the world a blaze.”
Ad Gab: A homegrown and simple idea, based on the concept of tell two friends, that focuses on leveraging the power of community advertising. Creates a network where firms are given the opportunity to brief/pitch their organization to other companies while they host them for a networking event and introduce them to their product/service. Other companies who attend, on the honour system, have to tell two of their customers about the hosting organization’s product or service. In subsequent weeks’ briefings, a different organization would get to present their own business, and the firms in attendance would then spread the word. There are obviously several major challenges to the delivery method selected (sustained attendance for one), but the idea that local businesses need more frequent opportunities to pitch their products and services to other firms and to new clients was not lost on anyone, and deserves real and immediate attention within Saint John.
Community Synergy Center: Develop an already vacant building in the Saint John downtown core into a physical space that can bring together all of the local non-profit business support, youth support, community support, and charitable groups and resources into one central location, and make them fully accessible to local entrepreneurs and start-ups. They also wanted to pitch the model as a rent-to-own for the local groups who we be housed in the space, so that initially the startup costs for the Community Synergy Centre are covered by the supporting organizations (with a few Government grants likely thrown in the mix), but they would eventually own the space outright, and be able to take those rents and then apply them towards programming and support if they chose to do so.
Components of the space could also be rented out to additional organizations, to bring in supplementary revenue streams to support additional programming.
Local Radiates: A platform to support local businesses (think Buy American plus). Component 1 would include the development of a rating system that would rate businesses on their inter-community use, acquisition, and support of local products with a mark given for “how local are you” on a 1 to 10 scale. Component 2 would be a communication and awards campaign that would provide the incentives and recognition for businesses and consumers that are focused on support local businesses and products. Component 3 would involve the development of a loyalty app, which would allow you to scan the QR or Bar Codes on local products, and would award consumers and businesses with points each time they purchased locally, with prizes and recognition being awarded to those consumers and businesses purchasing the most from their home community. Component 4 would be a general awareness campaign that would be designed to showcase businesses that are producing locally, selling locally, and hiring locally, so the community would know who they should be buying from.
Overall, we saw a bunch of really inventive ideas emerging from the Saint John Town hall, and we look forward to seeing what this entrepreneurial community will advance over the coming 3 months.