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Dragon’s Den Auditions

March 4, 2013

CEED hosted auditions for season 8 of CBC’s Dragons’ Den on February 16, and staff here are still talking about it! Although we didn’t get to meet any of the dragons this time, we did get to meet 42 amazing entrepreneurs who courageously pitched their ideas to producers in hopes of being invited for a visit to the Den. We also had the chance to meet Kate and Charlie, the show producers, and work with a number of our partners to prepare participants for their big moment.


Audition day started bright and early Saturday morning with a small line of eager entrepreneurs anxious to be the first to pitch their great idea. It wasn’t long until we had a room full of entrepreneurs, creating a buzzing, contagious energy! As contestants eagerly waited for their turn in front of the producers, they studied Dragon’s Den episodes playing in the CEED green room and took advantage of a unique opportunity to practice their pitch with our resident experts. A huge thank you goes out to our volunteers from CEED, Canadian Youth Business Foundation, Acadia Centre for Social and Business Entrepreneurship, Centre for Women in Business, Black Business Initiative, and Scotiabank.

Among the 42 hopefuls looking to make it to the Den were: Liam Taylor (Haskapa); Tyler Hayden; Mike Moses (Firehall Hot Sauce); David Johnston (The Amazing Mister J); Angela Seguin (Krazy Kritter Kookies); Tracy Tappin (Natures Natural Solutions); and Joseph McGuinness (Durty Nelly’s). Other notable mentions go to Langley Burke, the youngest entrepreneur of the group who pitched her “Stickee” idea like a professional, and Hicks, a Bernese mountain dog who helped Angela pitch her Krazy Kritter Kookies idea and stole everyone’s heart.



Hope Blooms, a social enterprise operated by Halifax inner city youth, also stepped in front of the producers and stole the show with their heart-warming presentation, based on the growing popularity of the salad dressing line that the youth create and sell themselves. The group impressed the producers so much with their pitch that Charlie tweeted about it!



CEED was also very proud to watch Anwar Husein, one of CEED’s Second Chance participants, pitch his creative idea to help disadvantaged youth learn life skills. Anwar was extremely well spoken and made all of us here at CEED very proud!


On behalf of everyone at CEED, thank you to all of our volunteers who helped to make the day such a success; we couldn’t have done it without you! For pictures from the event, captured by the talented Ryan Gillis, please check out CEED’s Facebook page at:


Asking for Help is Sign of Faith (not weakness)

December 6, 2012

Asking for Help is Sign of Faith (not weakness)

by Tim Vassallo

Remember those mornings when you were back in school: the alarm rang and you awoke with a sense of dread. It could have been a test that you forgot to study for, or an essay due that day, but whatever it was, you were not ready for it? I had a similar morning not too long ago. I had lost a team member to a new job opportunity and had a perfect storm a-brewing. The term ‘double-booked’ looks so innocuous when typed but, when uttered in high-pitched wail, it takes on a more urgent air! And with cloning not being a viable and timely option, I knew that I needed support.

Within one afternoon, I managed to find a workable solution to my scheduling ‘perfect storm’.  One of my responsibilities for the double-booked day was facilitating a full-day Entrepreneurial Immersion Workshop for a group of at-risk youth, I wanted to ensure that the youth did not get short shrift simply because my department was understaffed. So, as a visit to a local entrepreneur’s place of business is regularly part of my Entrepreneurial Immersion Workshop for at-risk youth, I decided that this time, the entrepreneur could come to us. Within the span of five minutes, my colleague Beth McCormack, a CEED Business Advisor, came up with a two solid leads for a potential guest speaker from among the thousands of CEED clients. The first person I contacted was Carly Murray from Chipper Studio, a design, branding, and marketing company. Without a second of hesitation, Carly agreed to speak to the group of at-risk youth and seemed flattered by the request.

One problem solved!

Next up, I needed support to fill the half hour in which I would be in transit from a workshop on the other side of town, but it had to be relevant to an entrepreneurial workshop for at-risk youth. After reviewing previous workshop evaluations from similar clients, I noted a strong interest in CEED’s programs earmarked for at-risk youth, such as Second Chance and the Youth Employability Project (YEP). I wanted to provide the youth with access to someone on our team who knew all about such initiatives. Instantly, Alison O’Handley came to mind. Alison, a colleague with ten years’ experience with all of CEED’s programs, from YEP to Education, Training to Second Chance, and everything in-between, is a veritable font of knowledge. Knowing that Alison is a team player and is always willing to help out a co-worker, I presented her with my dilemma and my prospective resolution. Always a collaborator, Alison smiled and said that she would check her schedule. Once she realized that she had some flexibility in her agenda for the day in question, she smiled again and asked how she could be of assistance.

The plan was coming together!

On the day in question, things went as smoothly and seamlessly as I had hoped, perhaps even better. The at-risk youth noted that Carly’s visit gave them a lot of information to consider, things such as creating your ‘personal brand’ as means to display one’s uniqueness and skills, and the Q&A with Alison about CEED’s youth programs generated a lot of interesting questions and answers alike. What began as a possible disaster evolved into a success (a positive from a negative is the best result one can expect!). None of my clients felt short-changed, in fact, the opposite, I felt that the day-long workshop was a collaborative success, and all participants were exposed to entrepreneurship as a viable career choice…the old “Win-Win”, as they say. Teamwork is a major factor in moving clients along CEED’s Continuum of Entrepreneurship and, with teammates like Alison and Beth at the ready, we will ensure that every client has an opportunity to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

Client Profile: New Wave Painting

October 24, 2012

When scheduling an interview with Justin Brown of New Wave Painting it seemed only fitting to meet at local café, Ireland 32.

Justin’s business started in March with the desire to create a sustainable company and take the bitterness out of the trades. “The future is supporting locally owned businesses. They all have a face, are accountable, and have a duty as a human being to be moral and ethical.”

This jack-of-all-trades (who has experience playing music in bands, carpentry, and audio engineering among other things) does interior, exterior, commercial, and residential painting. He even painted the CEED office!

His friendly, easy-to-use website has before and after photos of his projects.  Just one of the ways that New Wave Painting strives to offer a product that is above and beyond what the community has to offer.

Our conversation reflected this motto. He went above and beyond to tell me about VOC’s (volatile organic compound). I had no idea there were so many harsh chemicals in one can of paint that drain down our sinks and pollute our air.

I think everyone can agree that being environmentally friendly is a good thing-but what about the cost?

Justin says the most common misconception is that it is “more expensive, unattainable or that the products don’t even exist. In a lot of cases it is much cheaper than a lot of the paints on the market and where it is more sustainable for the environment-I mean why not?” He says with a grin. His ambition is enviable. And he says it is one of the keys to being an entrepreneur along with being fearless!

After butting heads with education system, Justin dropped out of High School. Thanks to his drive, will power, and self-starter attitude, he went back to High School, got his GED and then went onto college. Later on Justin participated in CEED’s Self Employee Benefits Program (SEB).

“It’s so weird because I always said I would be a business owner. I am going to be my own boss one of these days but I never knew; (but) I’ve always had this passion. I want to be a good boss to people, I want to inject my philosophies into the world that, from a younger age, I’ve taken so much from.”

He stresses the impact of the program, saying it reminds him of how lucky we are to be Canadian.

“I learned so many skills and met so many people! The networking workshops helped to shatter the misconceptions I had about events and how to present yourself.”

Still in the first year of business, he has goals for the future (listen for an upcoming radio ad Justin is creating), including working with local community paint shops to expand his business into the property management sector.

He says this could give him the ability to hire other awesome people in the community that deserve a good wage and a good boss!

“A lot of people go to work every day and they just can’t stand the fact that they burn away 8 hours of their life everyday.”

As a high school student I find this particularly sad to hear. However, there’s comfort knowing that people are looking to create something better for future generations. New Wave Painting is a reminder of possibilities available to everyone in our community.

-Ellen Withers


twitter: @withersellen

Common Roots Urban Farm-Interest is Growing (and the Aviva Community Fund Will Help)

October 2, 2012

New to Halifax is Common Roots Urban Farm, a ‘grow our own health project.’ It is on the hospital grounds, at the centre of town. This project aims to encourage and empower people to eat and grow healthy food.
Common Roots Landscaping Crew – a Social Enterprise that will: create jobs growing food in the city; teach landscaping, gardening and employability skills in a supportive environment, foster community engagement, and produce healthy accessible food.
Our goal is to create a social enterprise that will provide Edible Landscaping Services, employing people who are having trouble finding work. We will train at-risk & marginalized youth, building their skills through employment experiences in a supportive & safe environment.
We are seeking capital to purchase equipment that will establish this social enterprise: a truck and trailer, bikes and bike trailers, a shed, tillers, tools and other landscaping, gardening, and carpentry equipment.
Common Roots Urban Farm is perfectly positioned to be a high-profile learning ground. Food, fuel, and fibre are made from plants: having these resources growing around us gives people and communities more resilience. In addition to offering skills development, we will be creating a community with better food accessibility and security, healthier eating, a more integrated sense of self and environment, as well as stimulating the socio-economic growth that occurs within stronger, more self-sufficient communities.
The first project of the social enterprise will be to continue transforming the Common Roots Urban Farm. Then, we will move further, transforming more of the hospital grounds into edible landscaping. As we grow this social enterprise we will strive to incorporate edible landscapes into as many community spaces as possible.
We are at the frontier of a major shift in our community, and with the support of the Aviva Community Fund, we can realize this progressive vision. Strengthened by our many community partnerships with non-profits, government, and community members, we have the capacity to help our environment, local economy, and food security. We are looking forward to digging in deep, getting our hands dirty, and transforming our community, one landscape, and one person, at a time.
Common Roots broke ground in June 2012. Common Roots is a project of Partners for Care, a non-profit dedicated to Capital Health, our local district health authority. Common Roots Urban Farm will partner with the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education & Development, in conjunction with federal, provincial, and municipal government skills development programs to develop & administer this social enterprise. With more than 30 years collective experience of youth at risk programming and business development, and deep passion, we will make the Common Roots Landscaping Crew a social enterprise success in our community.

Client Profile: Chebucto Art Therapy and Counselling Centre

September 18, 2012

On a muggy Wednesday morning, I embarked on a mission (so to speak) to Dutch Village Road.

With a notebook full of questions and a tape recorder in my hand, I was determined to learn more about the Chebucto Art Therapy and Counselling Centre (CATCC).

Unlike some of the other CEED clients I’ve interviewed, CATCC is a bit of a question mark in my mind. What is art therapy? Who needs it? How does it work?

Turns out, it’s not that complicated to understand!

The most difficult part was craning my neck to talk to the (very tall) owner Nick Swaagstra. He has worked in the mental health field for a while. Including four years at the IWK Health Centre as a bereavement counsellor, but he said art therapy was always on his radar, “For about 15 years, I’ve always kept the art therapy part of my life alive in my jobs.”

He integrated his background in mental health and put his organizational skills to work in the SEB program.

“I loved that the program was there…it allowed me to do it methodically, to be thoughtful about what I needed to put in place.”

Nick also noted the supportive entrepreneurial atmosphere at CEED

“They gave me lots of encouragement; there is a natural community that develops.”

As it turns out, art therapy has been around for 60-80 years.

“In its most basic form – art therapy encourages people to do art that helps them express themselves better.”

His clients can range from victims of sexual abuse, people dealing with grief, stress, anger or even people looking for personal development.

What has surprised him most since starting his own business?

“I noticed there is a huge interest in art therapy; it seems there is a yearning for this kind of thing here.”

He also acknowledged some of the more difficult aspects of being an entrepreneur.

“It does take a lot longer to develop a good, strong referral base. (That) just means that I have to regroup a little bit and figure out new ways to make those connections,” he said.

He meticulously listed some of the aspects he had to consider when starting his business, things such as natural light, and the importance of being located on a bus route.

Proving there is more to being a businessperson than just having a good idea. Although that doesn’t hurt either, as Nick’s advises, “Don’t be afraid to dream big!”

Nick’s entrepreneurial desire is infectious, “A few years ago I thought, it’s time to finally make a go of it and focus on what I’m passionate about.”

This reminded me of the quote from Confucious, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

-Ellen Withers


Twitter: @withersellen

Client Profile: The Middle Spoon

September 12, 2012

After an all-out sprint to catch the #20 bus, I wasn’t in the cheeriest of moods stepping inside the Middle Spoon Desserterie & Bar on Barrington Street.

I walked into the dimly lit room just in time.

Co-owner, Lacey Doherty, greeted me kindly with her soft voice and gentle demeanor. I relaxed into one of the many sleek, upholstered (and surprisingly comfy) chairs-mood lifted!

Lacey looked very close to me in age, the one question I HAD to ask her (since I need to start thinking about my future plans) was if she always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur?

She gave me a cool and calm ‘no.’

“I never really knew what I wanted to do. I’m from Moncton and moved here on a whim. (I) ended up meeting my husband a few weeks after I moved.”

With the help of her husband Lacey opened The Middle Spoon just over a year ago. It’s certainly different than any other place I’ve been to in Halifax.

“It’s a craft cocktail bar that also serves desserts,” she said.

The perfect place to satisfy a nagging sweet tooth!

Just like other client profiles, The Middle Spoon is a CEED-ling.

In consultation with CEED’s dedicated and informative finance officers, Lacey accessed financing through the ACOA Seed Capital Program and Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF). She said it is a “great tool”.

Another tool they use effectively is social media. They are active on Twitter and Facebook “We’ve used zero dollars for advertising; we use social media and it’s reaching our target audience.”

It seems the Middle Spoon attracts a variety of customers. From gaggles of women on girls nights, to the nervous couple embarking on their first date, and even families taking their kids out for desert.

But before 9 pm of course-that’s when the liquor license kicks in and the establishment becomes a bar.

Popular bartender, Jenner Cormier, is the mastermind behind the drinks! Lacey’s favourite is the New Germain Sour, but the menu changes each season.

She expressed a lot of gratitude towards her husband and his family, who have a strong business background. “I get the talks around the Sunday night dinner table, and that really helps. I am extremely lucky in that way.”

I left sensing that I had found something special. An enthusiastic, dedicated entrepreneur paired with a unique, tasty menu. Sounds sweet!

– Ellen Withers


twitter: @withersellen

Client Profile: Inkwell Boutique

September 4, 2012

My inner ‘Stationery’ nerd was jumping up and down with excitement at the thought of interviewing NSCAD graduate, Andrea Rahal! I had heard of her store, Inkwell Boutique, not only from working in the CEED office, but from reading The Coast.

Since I am not yet old enough to vote for government, I exercise my rights as a Haligonian by religiously taking part in The Coast’s “Best of Halifax” readers’ survey. Go ahead, judge all you want, but it’s fun and a great way to learn about new stores, restaurants etc.

Andrea’s reaction to her winning ‘Best New Store’ was, “That was a huge surprise I was really honoured and really proud.” She also mentioned that it brought a lot more traffic into her store – locals and tourists alike!

When she won, her store had only been open five months. But was clearly making it’s stamp on the local boutique scene.

My expectations were pretty high, but after seeing the incredible inventory I was not disappointed.

I didn’t know what to look at first- the detailed, dainty cards, tote bags embossed with witty tag lines, or the bright, intricate origami flowers?

Inkwell carries products made locally and internationally, “We have a couple of artists from Dartmouth!” She says with a smile.

Andrea has an enviable quiet confidence.

One that I imagine has helped a lot with her business. Though she says the keys to being a successful entrepreneur are passion, dedication and perseverance,

“You are definitely going to hit a few road blocks, but you need to plough through.”

Speaking about perseverance, Andrea and her boyfriend (fun fact: both have graphic design backgrounds) drove to Connecticut to buy a 90 year-old printing press. Even when they brought it back to Halifax work still had to be done, “She had a really bad paint job, needed a bit of oil and love, we got her in December and she wasn’t up and running until August.”

Inkwell has built up a solid client base; Andrea says since opening she’s found people with a common interest. She has an ardent devotion to her store and truly embodies the idea: do what you love.

This and her entrepreneurial spirit in general are highly praised at CEED. We are proud to call Andrea one our own. She enrolled in the SEB program, and was partnered with an advisor, Nancy Thompson, whom she seemed very fond of.

She also received three loans, one being a training grant. “I’ve continued to return there for classes.”

When I asked her what’s her favourite part about owning a business, she giggled and asked, “Do I have to pick just one?” After some deliberation she explained, “the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of my labour and seeing my vision become a reality.” And her store is certainly a vision!

-Ellen Withers


twitter: @withersellen