Nova Scotia’s Chris Cowper-Smith is the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
The federal government’s business development bank announced this morning that Cowper-Smith, the Co-Founder and CEO of Spring Loaded Technology, beat out competitors from nine other provinces to capture the national award. Spring Loaded will receive the $100,000 first prize.
The awards were actually a sweep for Atlantic Canada as Melissa Butler, owner of the Real Food Market in St. John’s, captured the $25,000 second prize. The other Atlantic Canadian finalists were Phillip Curley, CEO of Fredericton’s HotSpot Parking, and Martin O'Brien of the Cascumpec Bay Oyster Company in Prince Edward Island.
The BDC Young Entrepreneur of the Year contest seeks to find the country’s leading entrepreneur aged between 18 and 35. The selection process relies on the decisions of a panel of judges, and the votes from the general public.
Cowper-Smith and his Co-Founder Bob Garrish have worked to develop the world’s first knew brace that provides power as well as stability for the joint. The brace, which has been in development for two-and-a-half years, will be launched later this year and manufactured at the company’s new headquarters in Dartmouth.
“Their company is a compelling example of how Canadian entrepreneurs can create world-class and exportable products in the healthcare space and improve quality of life for an ageing population,” said Michel Bergeron, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs at BDC, in a statement.
Throughout the contest, Cowper-Smith did an incredible job at rousing support for his cause during the public voting process.
Spring Loaded launched a social media blitz, and increased its digital advertising during the process. The team courted traditional media and did as many radio interviews in Nova Scotia as they could. Cowper-Smith and Garrish attended as many events as possible to find supporters.
In the final days, Cowper-Smith even campaigned with rush-hour commuters at the ferry terminals in Halifax and Dartmouth. He took the ferry back and forth between the cities a couple of times, talking to passengers.
“The security guy on the ferry wasn’t too happy about it,” joked Cowper-Smith in an interview. “I explained to him what we were doing and eventually he was all right with it. I think he signed up to vote.”
Aside from the pride of accomplishment, there are two ways in which the BDC competition will have a lasting impact on Spring Loaded.
The $100,000 prize money will help the company expand capacity in its plant so it can produce eight to 10 times more units a day than it can now.
The company, which is part of the First Angel Network portfolio, has raised about $850,000 in equity funding and about $1.65 million from government programs. It plans to use the BDP money and the prestige from the prize as the foundation of another raise from angel investors.
The other benefit of the contest is that through the campaign Spring Loaded doubled the size of its contact list. Throughout its three years, the company has conducted a media campaign that reached thousands of individuals, about a third of whom said they are interested in buying the Spring Loaded brace. Now that contact list has doubled, which can only help sales when the launch occurs.
“The publicity we received just from taking part in the contest has been amazing,” said Cowper Smith on the BDC website. “Over a thousand people from across Canada and beyond reached out to us.”