Helping you start, expand or purchase an early-stage, non-tech business

Starter Company Plus

Get the knowledge and guidance you need to confidently launch your business idea – and discover a community that can help make it happen.

The Starter Company Plus program provides entrepreneurs with free access to training and mentorship to help launch or grow their early-stage, non-tech, Ottawa-based business.

Applications are currently closed . Click the link below to get added to the waitlist for 2023.

Starter Company Plus participants get:

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Dedicated business mentorship

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Week-long training program

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A chance to pitch for up to $5,000

A Smart Start and a Strong Foundation

Participants start with a week of training from October 18-22, learning the fundamentals of developing a business plan through five consecutive days of intensive workshops. Topics discussed during training week range from validating your business idea, identifying your target market and digital marketing techniques, to branding, tax planning for sole proprietors, networking, and pitch skills.


Building Your Business

After training week, you’re introduced to mentors with the expertise and experience best suited for your business. These mentors will guide you as you begin to apply fundamental learning from training week to start building your business.

During this period (October 23 to December 1st), you’ll need to commit about five (5) hours per week creating and developing:

  • A functional business plan
  • A realistic cash flow forecast
  • Defined milestones for your business
  • Pitching skills and experience


Brainstorming session


Brainstorming session


Thinking about joining Starter Company Plus? Here’s what to expect:

  • Applications open from August 27th – September 30th
  • Orientation session: October 19th
  • Lean Canvas, Sales Forecast & Cash Flow Forecast submission: December 19th
  • Pitch week: January 23 – 27
  • Grant winners announced: Week of January 30th
  • Program closes March 31st

In Their Own Words: Our Entrepreneurs' Stories

2021 Alumni


Preloved 2 Beloved Furniture Redesigns

Techity Consulting

2020 Alumni

Purpose Fuel

Purpose Fuel

Eight50 Coffee

Eight50 Coffee

Beauty Braids & Beyond

Beauty Braids & Beyond


Go2Grad Tutors

Alumni Roster

Meet Our Mentors

Mona Abow
Business Strategist for WOC, The Boundless Mindset

Mona Abow is the founder of The Boundless Mindset, providing business strategy for WOC (Women of Colour). Her mission is to empower ambitious WOC to launch a lucrative online business they’ll love. She is a certified coach and consultant and provides services like her ‘4 Steps to Launch a Lucrative Business You’ll Love’ guide and her Business Accelerator course.  She also runs a podcast featuring guest speakers discussing topics like mindset, overcoming fear, and clarifying your business vision. Mona is also the Director of the YMCA Employment Services in Ottawa and the co-founder of the SCYM youth mentorship program. 

Mailyne K. Briggs
Owner, Kilam Media

Mailyne K. Briggs is the owner of Kilam Media and the Digital Communications Officer for the Social Planning Council of Ottawa. She is an interdisciplinary artist, writer and content creator. Mailyne co-founded A.R.T. In Action, providing free art workshops to youth and community members. She lived briefly in the Philippines at a film studio learning everything she could about pre-production, cinematography and editing. In 2013, she was faced with the challenge of being a single parent with $200 to her name. Armed with her education at the Algonquin College School of Business, her photography and video skills, and her determination to be at home with her child, she registered her business and has never looked back. Mailyne is focused on deepening her awareness of accessibility, amplifying the calls to action of Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ2S+ communities and advocating for mental health through the arts. Her child is the driving inspiration behind her work, activism and art. 

Karla Briones
Entrepreneur and Immigrant Business Coach

Karla Briones is a Mexican-Canadian serial entrepreneur with retail, food & beverage, franchise, online and consulting businesses.  Her passion is to help aspiring entrepreneurs – particularly immigrants – build sustainable and scalable businesses through her Karla Briones Consulting team and the digital community, Immigrant Entrepreneur Academy, launching in Fall 2020. 

Affan Mahmud Chowdhury
CEO, Notionhive

A serial entrepreneur – Affan Mahmud Chowdhury honed his people management skills at the Standard Chartered Bank’s Human Resource team where he started his career. While pursuing an undergrad and subsequently an MBA from the prestigious IBA, Dhaka University, he founded multiple companies in the IT, Hospitality, and Food & Beverage industries boasting modest YOY growths. Chowdhury’s free time is spent consulting and mentoring for startups as he desires to build a community of thriving entrepreneurs who will drive the economy. As an Alumnus of the US Department of State, Chowdhury spent 5 weeks in an entrepreneur exchange program in the USA, which helped him acquire a better understanding of North American businesses across multiple industries

Hazel Harrison
CEO, Smart Addiction Technologies

Hazel Harrison is from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Northwest Territories. She is a Canadian businesswoman and upcoming author of “Making Smoking History”. She has studied Business at McMaster University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Carleton University. Hazel is CEO of Smart Addiction Technologies and is the creator of Quit My Way, an evidence-based smoking cessation app featured on CBC, PR-Inside, and other prominent publications. Along the way, Hazel has developed strong skills in mobile app design and user interface/user experience (UI/UX) in mobile app development. Starting her entrepreneurial career as a restaurant owner at 24 years old, a REALTOR® at 37, while simultaneously starting up a paving company for her family, Hazel has worked with Indigenous organizations for over 15 years in areas of non-profit, education & training, Department of National Defence and most recently with the Federal government at the Specific Claims Tribunal. 


Priscilla Jabouin,
Mentor, Holistic Counsellor and Career Consultant

Priscilla’s passion is to help creative professional women find more fulfillment and happiness in their life and career. As a Holistic Coach and Counsellor she integrates her Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology, her Masters in Education and her Advanced Training as a Yoga Teacher to develop self-exploration programs and courses to support her clients in gaining clarity, building confidence and pursuing the life and career their heart truly desires. She specializes in the field of Career Development, with a twist. Priscilla believes everyone should be waking up to a life and career they love which motivated her to launch her private holistic career counselling practice. 

Nabila Kaci
CEO and Founder, Excellence French Learning

Nabila Kaci is the CEO and founder of Excellence French Learning, offering personalized language training for personal and professional development. She is a human rights activist, teacher and full-time mom. After more than 17 years of teaching and coaching executives in Ottawa, Nabila founded Excellence French Learning. Her company offers a variety of methodologies and training programs, including training for the government SLE (second language evaluation) test. She has been growing her company for over 8 years now and her mission is for Excellence French Learning to provide the best quality French language training in Ottawa.  

Sabre Pictou Lee
Co-founder and CEO of Archipel Research

Sabre Pictou Lee is Mi’kmaq from Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She is an experienced Indigenous liaison and researcher. She has worked in Indigenous-related program development, facilitation, and policy development and analysis. Sabre has worked on research and training projects with the Assembly of First Nations, Thunderbird Partnership Foundation, Carleton University, First Voices Week at Concordia University, law firms, and many First Nation communities across Turtle Island. In her undergrad, Sabre focused on Indigenous Art History. After completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts, she transitioned to specializing in Indigenous legal traditions and Aboriginal Rights in her Masters. With her facilitation and mediation expertise Sabre works to build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations. 

Eric McRae
Founder, My Byward Office

Eric McRae is the founder of the co-working space, My Byward Office, as well as a service delivery operations expert, and coach and mentor for startup entrepreneurs. He is a passionate advocate of building innovative solutions by leveraging the creative expertise of a diversity of skill sets and professions. With over 20 years’ experience in service design and operations management, in both the public and private sectors.

As a startup business coach: he helps entrepreneurs take their business ideas from concept to reality. He specializes in developing business models and working with clients to find effective ways of testing their designs, processes and service delivery, all to challenge assumptions and discover how to make the business thrive.

Jesmine Onyeukwu
Founder and CEO, JessyIsCharm and The Organizing Academy

Jesmine Onyeukwu, fondly known as ‘The Life Harmonist’ to many of her clients, is a certified international productivity, performance and leadership coach for business leaders and their teams. She is the founder and CEO of both JessyIsCharm and The Organizing Academy, and is a recognized thought leader in the productivity and organizing industry.

In 2019, Jesmine’s company became Canada’s first organizing and productivity company to be selected as a semi-finalist on Startup Canada’s Global Accelerator Program. Her mission is to equip leaders, teams and businesses with the tools necessary to work and live effectively and harmoniously.

Jacqueline Richards
Mortgage specialist and author

Jacqueline Richards is a mortgage specialist that finds clients effective mortgages and borrowing strategies. She has been committed to the community for over 25 years at the YM-YWCA as a fitness and yoga volunteer instructor. Jacqueline was previously part of Prime Ministers Task Force on Female Entrepreneurs, a past co-chair of Canadian Women in Communication (NCR), past Chair of the Eastern Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, and Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Board Director, as well as an international speaker and founder of Non-Di$clo$ureMasterMind Group. She is also the author of  “Yoga For Your Personal Finances, Practical and Spiritual Solutions for Financial Health” and co-author of “Ruby Red Shoes-Empowering Stories on Relationships, Intuition and Purpose”. 

Manu Sharma
Strategic Advisor, Centre for Social Enterprise Development (CSED)

Manu Sharma works with social purpose organizations seeking to shift their business strategy to improve their bottom line, generate innovation, increase social impact and/or launch new products and services. Manu is an engineer by background, technology entrepreneur by choice, and community activist at heart. He has over 18 years of experience in building multiple technology startups, encouraging and empowering entrepreneurs, supporting community betterment initiatives, facilitating innovation relationships, championing social causes and developing niche talent advancement and training programs. With a strategic interest in creating opportunities to empower individuals, organizations and communities to connect, communicate, collaborate and co-create, he strongly believes in the power and purpose of social enterprises and social good. 

Lisa J. Weiss
Founder, I of the Storm Coaching & Consulting

Lisa J. Weiss, founder of I of the Storm Coaching & Consulting, is a Speaker and Inspired Living Coach. She’s the creator of The Power of Seven, The LeaderSELF Coaching Circle™ and CONNECT™ Program for Men. Lisa has spent over 20 years helping individuals connect and communicate more effectively with one another. As a LeaderSELF Development Coach™ Lisa believes when a dash of the quantum sciences, and a touch magic, is infused with intentional breath, it creates an elixir that results in transformation from the inside out. She helps her clients recognize how the words they use, internally and externally, connect to their choices, and their external expression of SELF. As a Speaker, she believes in engaging the audience in a conversation. Her intention: to create an inclusive, experiential conversation that will entail inviting participants into their bodies, and opportunities to engage with their higher SELF

Paula Whitelock
Owner, Curly Hair Designs

Paula took interest in hair from a very young age and turned her passion into a business at 13 years old.  At 15 years old, she started working at a hair salon where she thrived and solidified the ideal of becoming a hairstylist. Her dream would soon be realized, when she opened Hair Designs by Paula in 2010 where she committed to working with all hair types. In 2014 Paula began the rebrand to Curly Hair Designs, because she discovered that many didn’t have a place to go that celebrated their textures. She launched a leave-in conditioner product in 2017, has been published in various magazines, and teaches her workshop Curls Understood. 

Paulina Yee
Virtual CFO

Paulina Yee is a seasoned financial professional with a 30-year track record of providing strategic financial advice and guidance to CEOs. As a trusted member of executive management teams, she provides strategic financial advice and guidance to facilitate discussion and decision making. She works with early-stage startups, as well as established small and medium enterprises 

Grant Panel Judges

Ana Steinberg
Ana Steinberg Designs

Ana Steinberg is a Colombian entrepreneur that has been running her graphic design agency and lifestyle brand for the past three years in Canada. She moved to Ottawa in 2010 for university, fell in love with the country, and now just leaves to escape the winter. She specializes in branding for small businesses, particularly working on logos, brand identity, websites, stationery, and offers online courses on branding and social media. She infuses everything she does with creativity, love, flavour, and lots of passion. In April 2018, Ana Steinberg was selected to be awarded the Starter Company Plus Program Grant by Invest Ottawa 

Anthonia Bejide
Shop Anthonia

Anthonia’s makeup journey started seven years ago in Ottawa, Ontario as a beauty advisor at Mac Cosmetics. After a few years of working on the retail end of cosmetics, she decided to branch out and see what else the beauty industry has to offer. Being in this industry has allowed her to experience working on commercial events, such as Fashion Shows, Bridal, Photoshoots, Video Production and Cosmetics Brand Partnerships. 

Anthonia’s portfolio also includes education. Her goal is to help beauty lovers, and professionals step up their makeup game with confidence. Her love and passion for beauty, education and entrepreneurship truly show in her experience and portfolio. She recently launched her first product collection in 2020 called “Perfectly Polished”. A line of cruelty-free, high-quality makeup brushes. Creating her first product line is a dream come true and she is very excited to continue growing her business and inspiring others.  

Owais Khan
OAK Foods Inc – Ottawa Samosa

Owais is the founder and CEO of OAK Foods Inc which operates as Ottawa Samosa. Owais and his wife started the company in 2014. Ottawa Samosa sells popular Indian snacks like samosas, pakoras, kulfies and chaats via their website and third-party delivery apps. They also sell frozen products wholesale to other businesses as well as direct to customers. Owais himself was a recipient of the Starter Company PLUS grant which enabled him to take his business to the next level. Ottawa Samosa was able to secure a lease for a full-time commercial kitchen and purchase a commercial freezer using the grant money. They also worked with the team at Digital Main Street to create an e-commerce website: 

Jelani Lewis
Jelani Lewis

Jelani Lewis is a Freelance Digital Creative based in Ottawa, Canada, who specializes in Video Editing and Digital Marketing Strategy & Media Solutions. He is also Senior Editor and Project Manager at Studio 79e, an Ottawa based media production company.  
He started his first company called Smallworld LIVE in 2016, a live events and concert production company based in Ottawa, Canada where he was CEO and Director of Marketing. Here he applied his passion for digital marketing to drive online ticket sales in a fast-paced industry. He joined Studio 79e in October 2019 and has worked with multiple small-medium businesses, ranging from fitness companies to online news publications, to build and execute their digital marketing ambitions.  
Over the last few months, he has taken a great interest in helping businesses build and design new digital products they can offer during the pandemic. He joined Digital Main Street through Invest Ottawa in September 2020 as an Advisor and has connected with over a dozen business owners about their digital marketing strategies and enhancing their online identity. 

Kara Eusebio

Kara is a strategic partnerships and external relations expert with international business, finance, and policy experience in the United States, Canada, and Myanmar. As head of the partnerships team at Invest Ottawa, she created and implemented the organization’s first full scale, high quality partnerships and sponsorships program and manages relationships with Canadian business leaders from the tech and innovation sectors. Kara is a 2019 Ottawa Board of Trade & Ottawa Business Journal Forty Under 40 award recipient and the Curator/Head of the Ottawa Hub of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum. Kara is also the Director, National Policy for the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada where she provides management and guidance for AmCham’s cross-border trade policy priorities. She is also a Professor at Algonquin College where she teaches Social Innovation.  

Kara is passionate about disability inclusion, youth engagement, and BIPOC entrepreneurship. She recently co-led Women and Color’s first Virtual Speaker Bootcamp, a series designed to equip women, people of color, and LGBTQA2S+ professionals in tech to launch their speaking careers. 

Melanie Ang
Back Country Wok

Melanie Ang is a marine biologist turned food entrepreneur and the founder of Backcountry Wok. 

One backpacking trip in 2017 changed it all. Despite the postcard-worthy scenery, the image that stuck with me was the garbage bag of meal packaging we accumulated. In addition, the camping meals were not nutritious and had little flavour diversity. 

With my background in sustainability and love for cooking, I knew this was a problem I could solve. 

Backcountry Wok offers sustainable and healthy meals for people on the go – in nature, at work, or anywhere convenient food tends to be unhealthy, bland, and in single-use packaging, with a portion of profits funding outdoor education and sustainability programs for youth. Our delicious vegan and Asian-inspired meals have been featured on CTV, DailyHive and the Toronto Star for shaking up the outdoor adventure industry. 

As a past participant in Starter Company Plus, I am excited to be a judge and support Ottawa’s vibrant entrepreneurship community!  

  • Interested in the 2023 cohort? Join the waitlist

    Thank you for your interest in the Starter Company Plus program! Applications for the 2022 cohort are currently closed. If you are interested in being notified for when our 2023 cohort begins, please fill out the form below to be added to our waitlist.

Interested in the 2022 cohort?

Applications are open until September 30th.

This program is made possible through funding from the Government of Ontario.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why did Invest Ottawa choose to support
BIPOC as Starter Company Plus’ 2020 priority?

At Invest Ottawa, we know that diversity, inclusion and belonging are critical success factors for globally competitive organizations and are required to drive sustainable wealth creation and prosperity across our region. As an organization that doesn’t simply accept differences, but celebrates and supports it, we prioritize the creation of an inclusive culture and infuse diversity into our programs, operations and governance. As has been widely identified, racialized people face significant barriers in accessing resources necessary for starting and growing successful businesses. In a 2017 survey on ownership demographics of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in Canada, data shows that only 13.6% of businesses are majority-owned by BIPOC. Of this 13.6%, only 3% of businesses are majority owned by BIPOC women. We at Invest Ottawa have recognized this gap, and as such are delivering Starter Company Plus 2020 to specifically help address the needs of racialized people and help close the equity gap in our local entrepreneurial landscape

What is 2SLGBTQ+?

2SLGBTQ+ is an acronym used to refer to people, as a group, who identify as Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Trans, Gender Independent, Queer and Questioning. The plus sign acknowledges the many sexual and gender minority people who don't see themselves in the umbrella acronym and prefer other identity terms such as pansexual, gender-free, or intersex.

Why “womxn”?

The word "womxn" is an alternative term to the English language word "women." We use this term to explicitly include those who identify as women, transgender women, women of colour and non-binary individuals. This choice supports our concerted effort to create a culture of belonging.