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COVID-19 becomes launchpad for 11 Local Entrepreneurs beginning Summer Session of Starter Company Plus Program

By Kelly Jessup
13 people on a video conference

Eleven entrepreneurs have been selected to take part in the Summer 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 Peterborough & the Kawarthas, the program will provide a five-week crash course in business training. Six of the participants will be awarded a grant of $5,000 based on the overall strength of their business plan and pitch.

“I am excited to kick off this intake of Starter Company Plus. The group of entrepreneurs and small business owners joining us are varied in backgrounds, experience and have each created a unique business,” explains Entrepreneurship Officer Hillary Manion, who oversees the program for Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development.

“When we discussed why they were starting their businesses on the first day of the program, we heard stories of people new to Peterborough and people who are turning their hobbies into a full-time business.  COVID-19 has given people time to think about following their passions. For some, the pandemic forced them to make a change. We have businesses focused on sustainability, environmentally conscious practices, healthy lifestyles, and socially conscious consumers.” 

All Starter Company Plus Summer 2021 intake workshops and consultations will be done online, with a focus on digital platforms, marketing, and communication as well as financial acumen and mental well-being.

“These entrepreneurs are a testament to the strong business community in the City and County of Peterborough. They are all confident and looking forward to joining their fellow small businesses owners in supporting the residents of Peterborough & the Kawarthas.” added Manion.

The Starter Company Plus program is made possible through funding from the Government of Ontario and has been running through the BAC since 2017. This program is designed to provide business training for entrepreneurs (from aspiring to experienced), aged 18 and over in the City and County of Peterborough who are launching a business or expanding an existing business (that has been operating for five years or less). Those who missed out on applying for the current intake are invited to apply when the program reopens in the fall. Eligibility criteria can be found by visiting

Sign up for the Small Business Newsletter to find out about upcoming Starter Company Plus opportunities

Meet the newest entrepreneurs below:

a man in front of a lawn with sunglasses over head

Barry Wiskel: Bearcat Games

Bearcat Games is a company that develops original card and board games for all ages. With a primary focus on fun, each game within the Bearcat suite is uniquely challenging and innovative, creating an engaging “device-free” activity that brings family and friends together and strengthens interpersonal relationships in today’s tech-driven world. A variety of games in the Bearcat line promote thought invoking skills making the games not only enjoyable but healthy for both young and aging minds. Bearcat Games’ secondary focus is on sustainability and raising awareness for current environmental issues. Games within the suite aim to subtly and subconsciously strengthen the understanding of current issues while promoting best practices to help combat these problems. Bearcat Games is committed not only to creating next-level fun experiences but also changing the world, and the individual minds within it, for the better.

a man standing against the wall & smiling

Chris Carvalho: East City Knife Sharpening

Bringing centuries-old craftsmanship into the modern age, East City Knife Sharpening provides convenient knife sharpening and repair for home and professional chefs in Peterborough, Ontario. A sharp knife is a necessity in every kitchen, and is the difference between cooking being a chore and being fun.

With gentle and precise sharpening using whetstones, customers can expect a long-lasting, high-quality edge. East City Knife Sharpening offers convenient pick up and delivery or drop off at the workshop, and orders are returned within 24 hours. Whether you have a standard kitchen knife, pocket or hunting knife, or high-end Japanese knife, every knife is handled with care.

a smiling woman in front of grey wall

Emily Nigro: Dead End Lures

Dead End Lures is a family-owned fishing lure company located in Bobcaygeon, Ontario. They are proud to offer a large assortment of handcrafted, eco-friendly fishing lures. Each lure is skillfully designed to catch the eye of both fish and anglers alike. Natural and lead-free materials are exclusively used for a sustainable fishing experience.

a man siting on one knee holding a black & white dog

Jeremy Pastic: The Karma Hammer

We need to build better homes. Recent estimates state that the construction and renovation industries account for up to 40% of the waste that ends up in landfills. Climate change and our lasting impact on this planet are concerns that need to be addressed now. The need to build
with sustainably harvested, low-impact materials is paramount – not only for the health of our planet but for ourselves. Enter: The Karma Hammer.

The Karma Hammer is a Peterborough-based natural builder, specializing in the use of healthy, sustainable building materials, ranging from straw bale insulation and natural plaster to no VOC paints and adhesives, to anything recycled or locally sourced and with a low carbon footprint. The company is run by Jeremy Pastic, a builder with 10+ years of experience and a graduate of the locally famous natural building school Endeavour. The Karma Hammer – Building for Good.

a woman in front of Buddha face painting

Kelsey Watts: Worthy Truth Wellness

Planning to one day open a studio of her own, Kelsey saw the potential to get started in her yoga business during the lockdown. Her online offerings bring participants into the present moment as she holds a safe and compassionate space of non-judgment. Kelsey encourages you to care for yourself, melting away stress and tension with mindful movement.

These classes have been offered live on Zoom for anyone, anywhere to join and Kelsey has been expanding into the Peterborough & the Kawarthas communities, offering in-person classes recently, as things open up again. Kelsey knows how important mental health and self-care is for everyone and she truly loves holding this space.

a man in formal wear against a grey wall

Lucas Graham: Countdown Creative

Countdown Creative is a full-service E-Commerce agency that helps small businesses start selling online. Building and maintaining a digital presence can be intimidating for offline business owners. There are so many complex parts that, as a busy entrepreneur, it can be hard to find the time to show your brand in its best light.

That’s why at Countdown, we take the complexity out of your website and marketing projects so you can focus on what you do best – running your business. From building online stores to managing social media accounts, we help you earn extra sales without the extra work. To start reaching new customers and growing your brand, connect with me at

a smiling man in beard in front of a brick wall

Mike Mullin – Double M Contracting

Double M Contracting is a newly established property maintenance and management business based out of Peterborough, Ontario. With a dedicated focus on client relationships, quality workmanship, and repeat business we aim to serve you 4 seasons a year! With services spanning from lawn care, window cleaning, dump runs, flagstone installation, and winter snow removal – we are committed to making a noticeable difference in and on your property!

a woman in black apron and cap

Suzanne Schmidt: Suzanne’s Hot Stuff

Suzanne’s Hot Stuff based in Millbrook just outside of Peterborough, Ontario, offers hand-crafted GLUTEN-FREE flavourful Hot Sauces, Pepper Jellies, Jerk Marinade, Mango Salsa, and more. With so many people being Gluten Sensitive, it is extremely important to Suzanne to be able to make flavourful Gluten Free products that everyone can enjoy. Each product is hand-made in small batches to guarantee the best results every time. Suzanne’s products are made with flavours that are not commonly found in the average grocery store. With more and more people cooking at home Suzanne’s Hot Stuff was started to help people add that special something to their Pantry list and to their everyday meals. Suzanne’s main goal in manufacturing these products is to add HEAT that Spices up your life! In bringing the heat Suzanne’s Hot Stuff does not compromise on flavour! Suzanne wants you to WOW your family and friends when you serve them up something special enhanced by one of her many products. ENJOY!

a man & a woman with a child in between

Tuncay Alkan & Laura Wilson: MEZE

Opening soon in downtown Peterborough, MEZE is a vegan deli and cafe serving traditional Turkish appetizers like hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves, and pastries including börek, simit, and baklava, alongside coffee and tea. Unique to the province, MEZE will also offer a weekly hummus subscription service whereby members will receive a perfect amount of freshly-made hummus in an array of seasonal and locally sourced flavours delivered every week, allowing them to make healthier and kinder choices.

Born of Tuncay Alkan’s desire to capture the culture of his hometown of Antakya after settling locally with his partner, Laura Wilson, MEZE will serve as a vibrant community hub for other newcomers and lifelong residents alike; a place where artists display their work and musicians practice their craft, where aspiring chefs rent kitchen space and groups meet after hours, and where community organizers and immigrants connect over a cup of Turkish coffee.

Sam & Nate White: Nateure’s Plant Based Food Company

Nateure’s Plant Based Food Company is located in Peterborough Ontario, Canada. We produce plant-based meat & cheese alternatives to help nourish the community, positively impact the climate crisis and improve animal welfare.

We pride ourselves on providing products that allow you to indulge in your favourite foods while using plant-based ingredients which do not compromise on the taste, textures, and aromas you have grown to enjoy. Our goal is to make the shift to eating more plant-based foods easier and tastier, whether you are a carnivore, vegan, or anything in-between. We believe that people should not have to give up their favourite foods in order to eat healthier, feel better and be more environmentally conscious.

Ken Seaboyer: Ask Transport

There’s a saying that “If you got it, a truck brought it!” And this saying is 100% true. The transport industry is a constantly growing sector that is the backbone of any economy. Unfortunately in an industry where demand is so high, quality service often takes a back seat. Ask Transport will offer quality, reliable, and on-time service in an industry where the room for expansion and growth is unlimited.