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Innovation & Job News

Eight entrepreneurs who want to make a difference

This summer, MaRS Discovery District announced a new program: an accelerator for socially-oriented businesses, called Impact 8. It's a bootcamp of sorts: eight participants were chosen for an eight-week crash course in everything from marketing to investor relations. That first cohort, chosen from more than 150 applicants, recently completed the program.

They celebrated in style, opening the TSX on December 5, and spending the day explaining their enterprises and pitching venture capitalists.

"One of the biggest roadblocks to getting my venture off the ground," says Gavin Armstrong, president of The Lucky Iron Fish Project, "was trying to really narrow down the business plan—hone in on the value proposition, who your customers are, and how you're going to deliver." As an Impact 8 participant, Armstrong got one-on-one time with experts who were able to walk him through the practical elements of pulling his project together more adeptly.

"The most critical thing is mentorship," Armstrong says about why he wanted to join Impact 8. He'd been working on Lucky Iron Fish on his own for a year prior to participating, but as a newbie entrepreneur the program "helped lay some of the first-time learning tools: financial fitness, marketing communications, intellectual property, trademarking…"

The Lucky Iron Fish, if you're wondering, is actually an iron fish—one that people can toss into a pot of whatever they are cooking, which will then absorb some of the iron, and help alleviate anemia. Armstrong is right now focused on Cambodia, a nation with significant rates of iron deficiency.

The entrepreneurs who joined Impact 8 all knew going in that they wanted to make a difference through their work—their projects must have social or environmental benefits in order to be eligible. It's the business side of thing that wasn't always as clear. "I didn't know how to make a sustainable business plan," Armstrong says frankly. "I was hemorrhaging money."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Gavin Armstrong, CEO of The Lucky Iron Fish Project and Impact 8 participant
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