Erin Elaine Casey
Erin Elaine Casey, Writer. Editor. Writing coach.

Picture yourself in fancy room full of interesting, talented, and successful people. Add tasty finger foods (deep fried mac and cheese balls, anyone?) and a bar. Throw in cool inventions, amazing ideas, and creative problem solving. What do you get?

The first ever Halifax Chamber Entrepreneurs Rally! Which is also the kickoff to Grow Halifax, the Chamber’s new initiative to bring businesses closer to the resources they need to grow!!

In my last post, I told you about Grow Halifax. This time, I’m going to tell you more about the entrepreneurs who presented at the Rally on October 13th in the Schooner Room at Casino Nova Scotia.

The set-up was simple: Four entrepreneurs at different stages of development briefly pitched their businesses and asked the 200 plus people in the room for help.

Let me introduce you.

Angela Gagnon, owner of EveryFit

Angela started her presentation by asking, “How many of you own shoes?” A ripple of laughter went through the room, but the problem Angela’s business aims to solve is a serious one. Angela’s 18-year-old daughter was born with spina bifida and has been wearing AFOs – ankle-foot orthoses – all her life. This stiff brace covers the foot from knee to toe, and the only shoes that fit are boys’ sneakers. Not what a little girl wants to wear to school every day.

I’ll let Angela take it from here: “My idea is simple: to create a line of specialty shoes for people who wear AFOs. I believe I can create a line of fashionable shoes and boots that are fun yet practical and functional, modern and in style. I could help so many people.”

Angela’s challenges? Tapping into the medical databases that would tell her how many people in Canada wear AFOs, finding suppliers, and of course money.

Paul Farmer, president and co-founder of VidSnippets Inc.

VidSnippets is a Halifax-based online video technology company. Their “seriously badass” (Paul’s words, not mine) technology enables anyone to select video segments, package them automatically, and embed them in any standard website or share them over social media.

Paul says: “We’re trying to remove the bottlenecks. In most companies, you have engineers or marketing people or whoever, and they want to get some content up but they have to rely on one or two people who have that video expertise to get that online. This way you can do it yourself.”

Paul’s ask? Connections and guidance, and help getting the technology out into the world through early adopters and investors who have experience with online content, marketing, and promotions.

Moe Kabbara, co-founder and CEO of NeoTES

If you like inventions, this one is pretty amazing. Moe and his business partners have developed the world’s first compact storage room heater. Homeowners can take advantage of reduced overnight electricity rates, storing heat at night and using it during the day. It could save people up to 50% on their heating bills.

“You don’t have to spend thousands renovating your heating system,” says Moe. “You can buy three or four of our units, have zone heating, and enjoy the benefits.”

What does NeoTES need? A viable product, field testing, a revenue model, and capital resources for R & D.

Riley Giffen, co-owner and co-founder of Coldstream Clear Distillery

Riley starts with a confession about the value of higher education: “I did learn how to distil in an organic chemistry class.” A year and a half later, he and his parents opened the doors of their distillery, which focuses on unique rums, vodkas, and liqueurs. Their new facility and store at Mastodon Ridge is already supplying products to the NSLC and private liquor stores across the province.

Coldstream has some good challenges: Rapid growth in Nova Scotia means managing supply can be daunting, both logistically and financially, so sustainable growth is key. Riley’s also looking for creative ways to market the products outside the province, and some fuel for innovation, so they create more drinks people love.

*          *          *

Lindsay Burns, marketing and sponsorship specialist at the Chamber, built the Grow Halifax program with the management team. She says something to me I don’t hear every day.

“No one builds a business without problems – you just don’t.”

It’s simple, but it’s true. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely and scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

There are tons of things that worked during the Entrepreneurs Rally. But what really stood out for me, and what every single presenting entrepreneur told me afterwards, is this: It was an unprecedented opportunity to tell their stories.

Every business has a story. And when we tell those stories – about personal passion, about years of research, about the problem we’re committed to solving – people listen. And they put their hands up and say, “I can help.”

Can you help Angela, Paul, Moe, or Riley?


Erin Elaine Casey is a writer, editor, and writing coach living and working in Halifax. Her passion for clear communication helps you refine your message and connect with your customers and clients online, on paper, and in person.