‘All we had was an concept’: Sparking entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia

SYDNEY, N.S. — Matthias Bierenstiel admits he knew subsequent to nothing about enterprise when he started his entrepreneurial journey in 2020.

Now, simply two years later, the college researcher-turned-businessman is the co-founder of Maskwiomin, a brand new Cape Breton-based firm that has married conventional Mi’kmaq medication with fashionable chemistry to create an progressive product that’s already in the marketplace.

It’s been a steep and quick studying curve for Bierenstiel and enterprise companion Tuma Younger, a fellow college member at Cape Breton College. He admits his breadth of information was restricted when it got here to enterprise.

“You could keep in mind, I’m a chemistry professor — I didn’t know something about enterprise,” exclaimed Bierenstiel, a local of southern Germany who obtained his doctorate from the College of Guelph and has been a professor at CBU since 2006.

“I didn’t know something about enterprise. I knew nothing about distribution channels or firm structuring or enterprise plans or advertising. And that’s solely the tip of the iceberg. There was a lot to study.”

That’s when the pair grew to become concerned with Spark Nova Scotia.

Maskwiomin co-founders Matthias Bierenstiel, left, and Tuma Young are making their mark as entrepreneurs after winning a Spark Nova Scotia competition two years ago. CONTRIBUTED
Maskwiomin co-founders Matthias Bierenstiel, left, and Tuma Younger are making their mark as entrepreneurs after successful a Spark Nova Scotia competitors two years in the past. CONTRIBUTED


Lighting the fireplace

Spark is each a contest and mentorship program for early-stage know-how firms within the province. It’s funded by the Atlantic Canada Alternatives Company (ACOA) and offered via the Nova Scotia Affiliation of Neighborhood Enterprise Growth Corp.

The Spark competitors is held yearly in three districts — Nova Scotia Southwest, Nova Scotia North and Cape Breton Island — to advertise budding entrepreneurs who’re typically situated exterior the Halifax space.

In 2020, Bierenstiel and Younger entered the Cape Breton competitors. Maskwiomin was one of many successful entrants and was awarded a prize of $40,000.

“After we utilized to Spark all we had was an concept – we actually didn’t have any sort of product at the moment,” stated Bierenstiel.

“I feel, fingers down, that Spark was essentially the most impactful help, each financially and mentorship-wise, that we had when our firm was simply beginning out. It was precisely what we wanted at the moment. It gave us a bit little bit of funding to construct our commercial-type extractor and it helped us get began.”

He additionally stated the corporate is a Cape Breton-only enterprise.

“You’ll be able to’t do that in China – the bushes need to be from Cape Breton as there’s a explicit species that we want. We’re happy with that. We wish to be right here in Unima’ki. We’ve constructed that into our marketing strategy and ethos of the corporate.”

Historic medication

The merchandise now made and bought by Maskwiomin (‘maskwi’ is Mi’kmaq time period for birch bark, whereas ‘omin’ means oil or extract) are distinctive in their very own proper.

It began years in the past when Younger, a Cape Breton Mi’kmaq and longtime Membertou First Nation resident, found {that a} sure medicinal information was at risk of being misplaced. By analysis, he was in a position to replicate the strategies of his ancestors to show the oil extracted from the bark of a birch tree right into a therapeutic salve of some kind that was used to deal with circumstances akin to eczema.

Younger then met the chemistry professor. Collectively they hatched the plan to commercialize Maskwiomin, however in a aware method to make sure the endeavour remained culturally moral. It was a superb collaboration that led to the pair receiving greater than $1 million in two Well being Canada grants for analysis functions.   

“Receiving the Spark award was then a type of an indication of approval that we have been for actual, that we weren’t only a one-day marvel,” recalled Bierenstiel.

“Spark facilitated that.”

Permjot Valia, entrepreneur-in-residence, Navigate Startup House:
Permjot Valia, entrepreneur-in-residence, Navigate Startup Home: “It reveals our brilliant and impressive those who there are nice issues they’ll do in Cape Breton.” CONTRIBUTED


Mentoriship and progress

Specifically, Bierenstiel praised his Spark-appointed mentors and the efforts of Permjot Valia, a widely known, London-trained startup skilled who additionally serves because the entrepreneur-in-residence at Cape Breton’s Navigate Startup Home.

“Permjot actually helped us establish what sort of firm we wished to be,” he stated.

“It labored. We made certain that we took half in moral commercialization. We’re working with the neighborhood and are nonetheless in negotiation with the Membertou First Nation about turning into a companion in our enterprise. Our final assembly was just some weeks in the past. So, that is all very constructive.”

For his half, Valia stated Maskwiomin is certainly one of many Cape Breton based-Spark winners that has gone on to success. And he stated the collective progress is each holding clever and impressive individuals at house and attracting different sharp minds to the world.

“I feel what Spark does, what start-up exercise does, is present our brilliant and impressive those who there are nice issues they’ll do in Cape Breton,” stated Valia.

“They don’t want to go away anymore to go to Halifax, Toronto, New York or Vancouver to pursue a profession in technology-based entrepreneurship. So proper now, with the world being the best way it’s, you’ll be able to have an incredible high quality of life and the happiness that comes from being close to your loved ones with out sacrificing your profession targets or enterprise ambitions. It may be accomplished.”

New competitors

Spark Nova Scotia 2022 has now launched its newest competitors with coaching registration having opened Aug. 9, adopted by weekly workshops that run via Sept. 12.

Firms making use of for the competitors face a Sept. 19 formal utility deadline with finalists being notified the next week.

Following every week of one-on-one pitch coaching, the competing firms will current their pitches earlier than a panel of judges with the winners to be introduced on Oct. 24.

For extra data go to sparknovascotia.com.

David Jala is a enterprise reporter on the Cape Breton Submit. 

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