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Twelve Local Entrepreneurs Turning Their Passions Into Businesses Through Starter Company Plus

By Kelly Jessup
collage of 12 images of people

Twelve entrepreneurs were recently selected to participate in the Fall 2021 Intake of Starter Company Plus offered through the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Business Advisory Centre (BAC). With assistance from a diverse group of subject matter experts from across the region, the program will provide a five-week course in business training. Six of the twelve participants will receive a $5,000 grant based on the overall strength of their business plan and pitch.

“On our first day, as the group introduced themselves, we heard from participants who were not willing to give up on their passions because of the pandemic,” says Entrepreneurship Officer Hillary Manion, who oversees the program for Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development. “They have adapted and created new businesses that allow them to continue to do what they love while offering products and services to their community.”

They have adapted and created new businesses that allow them to continue to do what they love while offering products and services to their community.

Hillary Manion

The BAC will conduct all workshops for the Starter Company Plus Fall 2021 intake online. The classes will focus on marketing and business practices that have proven successful in Peterborough & the Kawarthas and financial acumen and mental well-being.

“This group of entrepreneurs are all subject and content experts.  Many come with years of experience in their chosen fields and are now turning it into their own small business,” added Manion.

The Starter Company Plus program, offered through the BAC since 2017, is made possible through funding from the Government of Ontario. The program is designed to provide business training for entrepreneurs (from aspiring to experienced) aged 18 and over in the City and County of Peterborough in the process of launching a business or expanding an existing business (operating for five years or less).

Those who missed out on applying for the current intake are encouraged to reach out to the Business Advisory Centre team to learn more about how Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development can help local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Sign up for the Small Business Newsletter to find out about upcoming workshops and training opportunities

Meet the newest entrepreneurs below:

a woman in a nursery

Amanda O’Rourke: Belmont Farmstead

Havelock, ON

Belmont Farmstead is a small-scale farm and nursery located in Havelock, Ontario.  We grow ecological seedlings for home gardens and businesses, specializing in heirloom vegetable plants, culinary and medicinal herbs and edible flowers.  At Belmont Farmstead we also produce small-batch maple syrup using a traditional wood-fired arch.  You can find us at the Peterborough Regional and Downtown Farmers’ Markets from early May until the end of June. 

Follow us on Facebook for more information @belmont.farmstead.

a smiling woman looking into camera

Angela McDonald: The Florest

Peterborough, ON

The Florest was born out of a love for the outdoors and natural beauty. Angela McDonald grew up working in her mother’s local flower shop, and as an adult wanted to exercise creativity in the midst of Covid last October 2020. This is when she started The Florest by offering unique, natural winter arrangements and winter wreaths in Peterborough. After a successful winter and holiday season, Angela continued offering florist services to a growing customer base through 2021. Fresh cut flower bouquets with a selection of quality blooms, tasteful palettes and a cheerful delivery made The Florest a popular choice for floral enthusiasts in Peterborough.

Starting this winter, The Florest will be expanding and offering group workshop-based floral design and social evenings focused on bringing natural beauty and creativity into your home!

(ps. florist + forest = florest)

a smiling man

Brad Carson: Toureka!

Peterborough, ON

Toureka! is a startup company developing a mobile app and web-based platform that allows organizations of any size to offer their event-based tours in a brand new way.  An admin dashboard provides reporting insights and its content management system offers freedom and flexibility in keeping everything up to date, saving extra cost and waste compared to print-based materials.  Audiences can create their own personal tour itineraries in the easy-to-use, professionally-designed mobile app that provides navigational directions at the touch of a button – a tour guide in the palm of your hand.

To learn more about the upcoming official launch next year and how you can put your tour on the map, visit

a smiling woman in blue top

Caitlin Smith: ReCreate Space

Peterborough, ON

Caitlin Smith is the owner/operator of a professional organizing company called ReCreate Space.  ReCreate Space helps residents of Peterborough and the Kawarthas get more organized!

Professional organizers provide a wide range of services that are useful to people of all ages, different walks of life and even small businesses.  The services ReCreate provides vary with each client and include everything from prepping homes for sales & moves and consulting and advising clients on improving their home organization, and simplifying systems in their homes.

Just like you hire a cleaning company or a professional designer, many people need help to effectively organize the spaces in their homes & businesses.

It gives Caitlin great joy to ReCreate spaces – follow on Instagram & Fb @recreatespace

One man and two women in masks behind the check-out counter in a store

Dawn & Lea Call: O & D’s Fork in the Road Country Market

Lakefield, ON

O & D’s Fork in the Road Country Market is a small family-run business located at the heart of cottage country in the Kawartha Region. The Fork in the Road is dedicated to providing the community with a fresh, wholesome, and local shopping and eating experience. The owners tirelessly aim to provide customers with a homey, yet exciting environment that emphasises community and creativity.

At the Fork in the Road, you will find yourself immersed in a unique, upscale shopping experience at an affordable price. It’s forkin’ amazing!

smiling man and woman

Dreda Blow & Bruno Merz: Shomakers Ptbo

Peterborough, ON

Showmakers Ptbo offers musical theatre programming to children aged 4-16 geared towards creating and performing an original show. Weekly classes and summer camps include singing, dancing, acting and plenty of drama games in a fun, encouraging environment.

Led by industry professionals with international experience, dance-theatre artist Dreda and songwriter/composer Bruno, all programs will harness the power of imagination and creative play to explore ways of bringing stories to life on the stage. This unique process unifies an ensemble cast, caters to the strengths of each child, fosters friendships, and builds confidence that can last a lifetime.

Proudly based in Peterborough/Nogojiwanong, Showmakers Ptbo will also build connections with the community through one-off workshops, family events and pop-up performances.

man and woman standing besides a plant

Jolene & Shawn Morris: Trim Time

Peterborough, ON

Trim Time is a Mobile Cannabis Trimming, Processing & Extracts Service for recreational and medical cannabis growers in Central and Southern Ontario.  Shawn and Jolene operate a small, yet growing mobile family-run business, that comes to you, to save you hours of time, frustration, sore sticky hands and stress. 

They are hardworking, passionate, experienced, educated and whether you’re new to growing and have questions or a seasoned pro short on time, they are here to help.  Even if you don’t grow yourself, Trim Time can also process hash, rosin, pre-rolls and more, right at your door.  Don’t waste your time – Call Trim Time!  Check us out today:

a smiling woman

Kate Suhr: Voi-sings

Peterborough, ON

VOI-SINGS is an independent voice-over business emerging in Peterborough and The Kawarthas in the winter of 2022. Through artistic expression and expertise, local singer-songwriter, producer and actor Kate Suhr will offer unique methods for business owners to convey their message in a personal and contemporary way. VOI-SINGS will be working with local companies such as Impact Communications to offer fresh and new ways to communicate through music and voice. Suhr has been an active member of the performance industry for over 15 years. She has written songs for TSN, National Fishing Week and has voiced local, regional and national radio/television commercials.

man and a woman in glasses smiling

Patrick & Deanna Leahy: Leahy Farm (final name TBD)

Douro-Dummer, ON

There is nothing more rewarding than producing good food for your community to eat. Patrick and Deanna Leahy operate “Leahy Farm” (final name TBD) in Douro, just east of Peterborough. The farm offers flavourful, top-grade, locally processed meat (beef, chicken, lamb, and turkey), as well as eggs from pasture-raised hens. Building off of their multigenerational farming experiences, the partners have grown and adapted their operation over the past few years, identifying environmental sustainability and animal quality of life as priorities influencing farm practices. The partners are committed to continual learning, adapting, and sharing experiences to encourage a shift towards such practices. Customers are welcome to pick up products from the farm, or local delivery may be arranged.

smiling man in cap with a woman

Rob & Denise Driscoll: Northern Cottage Comfort

Havelock, ON

Brother/ Sister duo, Denise & Rob Driscoll, are Northern Cottage Comfort. They are taking Peterborough and the Kawarthas by storm with their original wooden furniture and décor. Specialties include farmhouse benches, shelving, centerpieces and seasonal signs. All their products are constructed using second-hand materials. They collect hand-me-down wood from online buy & sell portals, bring this back to the shop and redress it brand new for their clients. Through this process, they turn out unique, one-of-a-kind products every time. Their passion is to reduce waste and repurpose materials while creating rustic but fresh designs.

Check out their website or follow them on Instagram. @northern_cottage_comfortm

man with a girl looking through window

Travis Berlenbach: Trip Taco

Selwyn, ON

Trip Taco! Peterborough’s first and only Taco Truck. The concept is inspired by flavours from around the world and offers a fresh and unique spin on a favourite.

New father, Chef/Owner Travis Berlenbach just lost his own father, decided to step away from his career in music. He knew it was time to pursue his dream as a food truck owner.

Having 27 years of restaurant experience, from busboy to Sous-chef, Berlenbach was excited to become an entrepreneur. Little did he know a pandemic would hit two months after he purchased his trailer.

After many hurdles, uncertainty and almost losing everything, Berlenbach found himself having to pivot daily until he was able to finally open in August 2020.

Located at 1794 Chemong, Berlenbach already intends on spreading their reach in 2022 utilizing its capability to be mobile and also expanding the brand to enable the business to run year-round.

woman showing keyboards

Lynda Todd: Vision Imports Ltd.

Peterborough, ON

The Kleen Keys keyboard and mouse are 100% waterproof, dust-proof and can be disinfected easily. The Kleen Keys design objective was to handle life’s spills and messes while keeping your family healthy and safe.

Kleen Keys keyboards and mice offer the perfect solution that helps prevent the transmission of germs and viruses that can be found in every house and office. This is especially true in open and shared workspaces.

The need for a keyboard and mouse that could be truly disinfected was realized during the SARS pandemic and they are made to the highest standards.

As the manufacturer, Vision Imports Ltd. ensures top-quality products making Kleen Key extremely durable and seriously rugged. They are used in a wide range of industries including oil and gas, medical and dental, correctional, and educational facilities.

Kleen Keys products help reduce the spread of germs.

For wholesale and retail inquiries, please contact 705.760.9358. or visit #washablekeyboards.