Welder Aaron Carter earned the popular vote and the $800 grand prize at Thursday’s Local Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program (LEAP) “barn raising” event.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all, actually,” said Carter, who will offer custom farm equipment through On the Farm Welding.
After 13 weeks in LEAP, Carter and four other participants (see below story for more) in the joint Kootenay Employment Services-Simon Fraser University program pitched to 100 guests at the event, held at Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery.
Due to the agricultural slant of Carter’s venture, it was topped up by $1,000 from Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B director Tanya Wall. For the same reason, Root and Vine Acres owner Jessica Piccinin’s Walking Olive Tree, whose pitch outlined a plan for a food truck selling locally produced smokies, also earned $1,000 from Area B.
Wall also donated $250 to each of three remaining participants, and gave all of them some advice.
“You’re going to be defeated,” she said. “You’re going to be levelled to the point of, ‘What am I doing this for?’
“Keep pushing forward.”
The participants also received Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce memberships and $100 in Community Futures workshops.
LEAP facilitator Amber McGregor said she was humbled by the community’s response to the event, which also ran last year.
“I can’t believe our community,” she said. “A hundred people coming to a business event on a Thursday, seriously? I had people on a waiting list!”
McGregor was also impressed by the progress the program’s participants made, which speaks to their own self-motivation.
“There’s not a lot of babysitting,” she said. “They have one class three hours a week.”
This year’s LEAP participants were:
Aaron Carter, On the Farm Welding
Welder Aaron Carter specializes in small-scale farm equipment, and recently fabricated a small garlic lifter for a local farmer, who can now harvest a row in 10 minutes, a job that used to take 45. He also designed a stainless steel table and hoppers for Faramon Farms.
Carter is from Sault St. Marie, Ont., and moved to the Creston Valley to be mentored by Russ Jackson.
His pitch was for funds to buy a used welder, which could run from $3,000-$7,000.
Tessa Lane Park, T. Lane Design
Tessa Lane Park has been “obsessed with fashion” since she was seven.
“And nothing has changed,” she said in her pitch. “This is my life.”
With her current business, she repurposes vintage and used jewelry — chains, metal and leather — and clothing, with a focus on sustainability.
Her pitch was for funding to buy eco-friendly packaging.
Jessica Piccinin, Walking Olive Tree
At Root and Vine Acres, Jessica Piccinin began raising pigs as a means of disposing of garden waste, which was becoming more than she could compost.
The pigs are pasture raised and fed local grain, grass and vegetables. To make sausage for the Walking Olive Tree, the pigs would be turned into gluten-free sausage by a master butcher in Kimberley.
Her pitch was for funding to refurbish a used food truck, likely about $5,000, allowing the smokies to be sold at markets and events around the region.
Rachel Wagner, After Hours Coffee
A comfortable, clean, modern coffee house “conducive to quiet conversation” was the goal of Rachel Wagner. It would be open to all ages, but employ youth and offer youth a place to go in the evening.
“I’m really passionate about good quality coffee and espresso,” she said.
Her pitch was for funding to renovate a Canyon Street location.
Miranda Wolfe, Little Joy
A “maker space” for people of all ages to drop in to create art was the goal of Miranda Wolfe, who specializes in photography and mixed media. It would be therapeutic, she said, having used art to deal with her own issues as a youth.
“Anyone can use it as a way to express themselves,” she said.