By: Jane Zaugg
Even though they had spent ten years establishing successful careers, in 2018, Ryan Gencarelli and Sarah Gencarelli knew they were ready for something different.
While they both enjoyed their work, they craved more freedom personally and professionally.
Sarah successfully transitioned from full-time employment to consulting. During the shift, she and Ryan recognized a gap in support for new entrepreneurs. This was before the pandemic when it was less common for someone to leave a corporate job, let alone work remotely.
“We were shocked by the lack of good supports,” Ryan said, “especially for Canadians. While there were generic resources out there, most were US-based.”
A family vacation to Italy provided the distance and clarity they needed to plan their next move. During this trip, Ryan and Sarah decided that their joint venture would be to help close that gap.
The result was wild idea co. – a startup aimed at supporting Canadian entrepreneurs through coaching, creative, and consulting specifically tailored for Canadian entrepreneurs.
With the idea in place, Ryan gave his two weeks and began pouring his energy into the idea.
The Challenge: Turning an idea into a full-fledged business
Even though the Gencarellis were both skilled marketers and had Sarah’s consulting business as a starting point, they faced the same problem they identified in the first place: navigating the challenges of building and operating the backend of a business. They needed support.
Ryan started searching for ways to gain confidence in the accounting, funding, and legal facets of business ownership. And in his search for guidance and information he could trust, he discovered Invest Ottawa.
“I went to the learning center,” Ryan recalled. “I would do back-to-back-to-back workshops multiple days a week, basically soaking in everything I could.”
“Then,” he added. “I saw Starter Company Plus come up.”
Accelerating the idea: With Starter Company Plus
Starter Company Plus is Invest Ottawa’s incubator program for non-tech companies. The intensive four-month program equips entrepreneurs with a well-rounded business education and includes a chance to pitch for additional funding.
“I figured – let’s just apply for it,” he said. “It could be what we need to take our business to the next level.”
In the classroom, Ryan said that “everything A to Z was covered,” and through the program, he and Sarah learned about funding sources, bookkeeping best practices, and other essential skills.
In mentorship sessions, the Gencarellis received one-on-one advisory to accelerate their path to success. The program also connected them to additional networking opportunities with other entrepreneurs, guest speakers, and program leaders who provided additional support and inspiration throughout the program.
But while all these supports helped build a strong foundation for their business, Ryan said that the pitching element of the program gave wild idea co. a much-needed boost.
“The pitch gave me the confidence I needed as a new player in Ottawa’s business community,” he said. “And it helped validate our white space.”
Ryan and Sarah successfully completed their pitch and gained an additional $5,000 in funding for their business. Ryan said this was a game-changing funding boost that helped them attract and serve new customers through a customized website.
But Ryan says that as much as the funding boost helped the company get a strong start, the information and insight gained through the program was truly irreplaceable.
“Honestly, it’s the knowledge that’s the most valuable,” he said.
Five years later: Leaders and advisors
In the five short years since wild idea co. launched, they have expanded into serving more than just early-stage founders.
“We augment agencies, marketing teams – we’re even attracting entrepreneurs and founders that are more evolved.” wild idea co. also provides a lot of helpful content for free on their blog – an invaluable resource for many businesses looking for solutions.
Even with these exciting opportunities, wild idea co.’s core clientele has not changed, and the Gencarellis still feel their original mission stands. And according to Ryan, it all goes back to that one wild idea: giving Canadian entrepreneurs the tools, resources, and professional support they need to turn their wild idea into a viable and successful business.
“At the core, whether they’re a start-up or five years into business, our clients all share the entrepreneurial spirit,” he explained. “They’re just at different stages of their journeys.”
With several years of business experience behind him, Ryan has taken on another role at Invest Ottawa: becoming a mentor.
“I just asked one day, do you need advisors? We think there would be a great fit here. And luckily, it was a yes,” he said.
Ryan now provides both direct mentorship and delivers expert workshops on branding and marketing for Starter Company Plus, contributing his expertise to the program that once helped him.
wild idea co.’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
Now with Starter Company Plus applications open for the 2023 cohort, Ryan has advice for anyone curious about the mentorship aspects of the program: “If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.”
Have a clear ‘why’ for your business and figure out what you need – then ask questions to find out how you can get there.
“Ask questions and expand your network,” he advised. “The more you reach out, the more potential support you can get. Build relationships and grow them.”
Looking for answers to your entrepreneurial questions?
Access free 1-on-1 consultations with Ryan or one of our other advisors to get advice on how to grow your business.
Interested in joining the next cohort of Starter Company Plus?
Applications to join the 2023 cohort are open until August 25th! Submit an application to take advantage of free entrepreneurial education, 1-on-1 mentorship, and a chance to pitch for up to $5,000 in grants to support your business.