Jason Janes

Jason Janes

The entrepreneurship community in Western Newfoundland is taking on a more cohesive structure, with more than 100 members in its Facebook community and a recent pitching competition.

Humber Valley Entrepreneurs is a group of entrepreneurs and enthusiasts in the area around Corner Brook, or as they put it “from Lark Harbour to Jacksons Arm and everywhere in between.” The group now has 116 members in its Facebook group, and the number is growing.

The growth of the group is evidence that organized entrepreneurship communities are spreading across the island of Newfoundland. In recent years, the activity on The Rock has been focused on St. John’s and other parts of the Avalon Peninsula, and now the organized community is spreading west.  

“The purpose of the group is to stimulate the entrepreneurial conversation in our local area,” said organizer Jason Janes in an email. “We will generate new interest, cause excitement, and take action. The result will be more ideas shared, more problems solved, more mentors engaged, and new businesses created. As a community, working together, we can achieve greater success.”

Janes had been one of the pillars of Startup St. John’s, and moved back to his original home in Greater Corner Brook about a year ago. Now he is joining the movement to grow the community on Newfoundland’s West Coast.

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The early stages of growing an entrepreneurship organization have developed in the last few years. Corner Brook’s two main academic institutions – Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus and the College of the North Atlantic – have come together to form the Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre, which mentors young entrepreneurs. It works with 25 to 40 students at any one time.

A year ago, the first Startup Weekend – a 53-hour event in which teams compete to see who can develop the best business idea in a weekend – was held in Corner Brook.

Last month, Humber Valley Entrepreneurs organized two events in the same weekend. There was a Pitch101 event, which trains entrepreneurs in pitching, and a Create-a-thon, which is similar to a Startup Weekend format.

The winner of the $1675 first prize at the Create-a-thon was Team Greenhouse, a four-member team working on an idea by Nazrul Islam Rahel. It proposed addressing problems in food security in Newfoundland by establishing a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse that would receive its heat and energy from waste water from the Corner Brook Pulp & Paper mill.

“Our proposed greenhouse would use that hot water to both heat the greenhouse and, through an inline generator, to create electricity to produce light,” said team member Dennis Wass, who pitched the project. “The primary challenge with growing greens in a northern climate is light. We don’t have enough light year round. “

The $925 second prize was claimed by Grenfell Go, and the $400 third prize went to Team Lyocell.

The community is moving forward with more events. The next is a second Startup Weekend, to be held on March 31. Humber Valley Entrepreneurs is hosting the competition in collaboration with MUN’s Grenfell Campus, College of North Atlantic, and Navigate.

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