I am an Asper Entrepreneur
Click on the images below to read the stories of entrepreneurs who had their start at the Asper School of Business.

EXIGENCE TECHNOLOGIES

Sheri Governo and Zach Wolff

Asper Roots
Zach Wolff is a current I.H. Asper School of Business MBA student, and co-founder Sheri Governo completed her MBA in 2015. In 2014 the team entered the Stu Clark Investment Competition and not only made it to the Championship Round, but went on to win Top Canadian University.

Company Profile
Zach and Sheri developed germ fighting materials that attract microbes, and then eliminate them along with the spread of infections. This technology breakthrough was originally the result of research which took place right here at the University of Manitoba, by Dr. Song Liu, Associate Professor in the Department of Textile Sciences. The compounds were originally thought to focus on only healthcare and hospital facilities, and in particular healthcare textiles, but current development is expanding into water remediation, sports padding, mattresses, and many other potential product applications. In particular, the company is working to expand into the food processing environment to prevent cross-contamination.

Path to Success
Zach and Sheri were initially exposed to the technology in an MBA class called Business Venture Analysis, taught by Stuart Henrickson, I.H. Asper Executive Director for Entrepreneurship. After encountering a scientific breakthrough development related to self-disinfecting surfaces by Dr. Song Liu, both decided to form a commercialization for this technology in conjunction with University support and by working with Dr. Song Liu.
Zach says that what he is most proud of in his career is the relationships he has built and the idea that people recognize the success of the company enough to want to be involved. “The company starts out small and then takes on a life of its own, but to be among the first people who did everything is very rewarding” says Zach. “In the relationships we work to develop, ‘No’ happens in 30 seconds, but ‘Yes’ happens over many months”, says Zach.

Tips for Success
Their success comes from being patient, and never giving up or panicking when unexpected developments occur. The answer is always digging deeper to overcome any challenges at hand.

Visit www.exigencetechnologies.com to learn more!  

 

PASSAGES MEDIA LTD.

Travis Dreger

Asper Roots
2016 graduate of the Asper School of Business, Travis Dreger, has been building his company while studying International Business and Entrepreneurship. Travis was introduced into the world of entrepreneurship when he attended Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Manitoba’s Start-Up Bus Crawl and made connections with the SCCE.

Company Profile
Travis started a company called Passages Media Ltd., which collects online stories and memories from family, friends, and loved ones of individuals that have passed away. Travis started working on Passages Media Ltd. after working with his father on the company he built called Quality Concepts, a construction company that focuses on providing Manitobans with windows, garage enclosures, gazebos, or screened enclosures for their homes for mosquito and bug prevention.

Path to Success
Travis explains that attending the Manitoba New Venture Championships held by SCCE helped him gain exposure and feedback. Presenting at a competition takes a lot of courage, and his personal growth came in the process of pushing himself to participate. Being such a young entrepreneur, Travis had to educate himself in the construction sector in order to gain the trust of his customers. Without the additional work that Travis dedicated to learning about the industry, the company’s growth may have been jeopardized.

Tips for Success
Travis prides himself in taking action in his own life to get him to where he is today, and advises future entrepreneurs to always be humble and not flaunt their success, but instead let it speak for itself.

Visit passages.life and qualityconcepts.ca to learn more! 

 

NORTH FORGE TECHNOLOGY EXCHANGE & PERMISSION CLICK

Chris Johnson

Asper Roots
Chris graduated from the I.H. Asper School of Business with a double major in Entrepreneurship and Marketing.

Company Profile
Chris decided to build the startup community, and became the founder of Ramp Up Manitoba, in order to help entrepreneurs that were struggling to find a project to commercialize. Ramp Up Manitoba in 2016 later became North Forge Technology Exchange. North Forge Technology Exchange gives entrepreneurs, developers, and designers the opportunity to build their idea into a startup by connecting them with knowledgeable mentors and prototyping services. In addition, Chris is the founder of Permission Click, an online tool used in schools to create and distribute permission slips and payment collections between faculty and parents.

Path to Success
What Chris is most proud of now is the big team that he has developed and how much his companies have grown. “Seeing that people are really buying into your vision is very rewarding” says Chris.

Tips for Success
His advice for future entrepreneurs is to connect with as many people as possible. While being in the entrepreneur community of Winnipeg, Chris learned that with the right amount of passion and drive, it can be easy for a recent graduate to start their own business. “If you really want to do it, the pathway is laid out in front of you with tons of support”.  

Visit www.northforge.ca & www.permissionclick.com to learn more!

 

WHITE PINE BICYCLE COMPANY

Brendan McAndrew

Asper Roots
Former I.H. Asper School of Business student, Brendan McAndrew built his company, White Pine Bicycle Company, after entering the Manitoba New Venture Championships held by the SCCE in 2014. Brendan gained the confidence in his business plan after hearing valuable feedback from the judges, and later decided to pursue his dream and start his company.

Company Profile
White Pine Bicycle Company specializes in building custom bicycles, cruisers, and commuters for their customers. The company prides itself in providing affordable, trendy bikes that fit the customer’s vision. Brendan first set up a kiosk at The Forks providing sales and rentals of bikes, but soon learned that the majority of his clients would rather buy the bikes than rent them. White Pine Bicycle Company now has a permanent location in the Johnston Terminal at The Forks that operates all year round.

Path to Success
Brendan states that the process of starting a company is accompanied by many struggles such as cash flow, loans, international deals, and exchange rates. However, he believes that the success of a company comes from the continued research and dedication that is devoted to overcoming these struggles, and support from employees. “Trying to run a company on your own without employees to try to save money won’t work because the value added is more important than the cost” says Brendan. With additional support, his company is now growing exponentially.

Tips for Success
Brendan advises future entrepreneurs to commit their lives to their business and continuously have confidence in their plan regardless of what others may tell them.

Visit www.whitepinebicycleco.com to learn more!

 

SPARK RENTALS INC.

Sinan Leylek

Asper Roots
Sinan Leylek graduated from the I.H. Asper School of Business in 2014 with a major in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Sinan entered the Manitoba New Venture Championships held by SCCE in 2014 and gained feedback from judges that encouraged him to pursue his business plan.

Company Profile
Spark Rentals Inc. provides rentals for PA systems, LED dance floors, and other DJ lighting and effects equipment. The company’s vision is to be the go to supplier for affordable and unique DJ effects. As a member of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization Manitoba student group, Sinan attended the Start-Up Bus Crawl where he learned about Downtown Winnipeg Biz’s Launch It! Retail Incubator program. This program provided him with a three month pop up in Portage Place from June to October of 2015. As of November 2015, the company now has a permanent storefront location in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and started international delivery in January 2016.

Path to Success
Sinan states that as an entrepreneur, it is easy to be hard on yourself and get weighed down by the struggles of your business, but being proud of your successes and major milestones is extremely important. As a startup in Winnipeg, he learned that there are countless companies and people selling products and services to help you be more efficient and productive in your own company.

Tips for Success
Sinan advises future entrepreneurs to consider how important timing is, and to take advantage of resources that are available to them. However, knowing what’s essential and what can be done without the help of others is what led Sinan and his company to the successes that they have reached today.

Visit www.sparkrentals.ca to learn more! 

 

BOTANICAL PAPERWORKS

Heidi Reimer-Epp

Asper Roots
Heidi Reimer-Epp graduated from the I.H. Asper School of Business in 1994 with a major in Marketing.

Company Profile
Heidi turned her passion for paper into Botanical PaperWorks, a business guided by environmental sustainability. Botanical PaperWorks is the world-leading producer of eco-friendly seed paper products that grow into flowers, herbs, or vegetables. They manufacture seed paper and design stationery, wedding invitations, favors, memorial products, and corporate promotional products made from paper embedded with seeds. When planted in soil, the paper will biodegrade and the seeds will grow, leaving no waste behind. Clients include Fortune 500 companies such as Starbucks, Sony, and TimeWarner.

Path to Success
Heidi explains that the process of building a company takes time and patience. Scaling up is the biggest challenge because each growth takes additional cash, employees, and expertise. The most important lesson she learned was to always have additional money reserved and never go too close to the edge financially.

Tips for Success
Heidi encourages future entrepreneurs to always continue learning with videos, blogs, seminars, and research. Additional learning will filter down in a positive way onto the company. 

Visit www.botanicalpaperworks.com to learn more!

 

FRONTIERS NORTH ADVENTURES

John Gunter

Asper Roots
John Gunter graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) in 2001. He majored in Management Information Systems.

Company Profile
John is president and CEO of Frontiers North Adventures. The company specializes in offering expert-guided travel adventures introducing people from around the world to Canada’s breathtaking natural landscapes and wildlife – from beluga whales in the subarctic to up-close encounters with polar bears under the aurora-drenched skies of Churchill, Manitoba. Frontiers North Adventures employees around 20 full-time staff year round; another 65 join the company seasonally.Under his leadership, Frontiers North Adventures has continued to reduce the environmental footprint of its operations. The company works closely with local communities to ensure the company is giving back as much as it takes, or more. Frontiers North even ran a recycling program in Churchill for five years before the city started its own.

Path to Success
After graduating from the Asper School, John spent a few years in the IT sector before venturing into Frontiers North, a family business started by his parents in the 1980s. He worked his way through all areas of the company and took the helm in 2014. When he started in 2002, his first tasks included formalizing and reorganizing the organizational structure and identifying the company’s core values. For an organization that operates in three seasonal cycles throughout the year, each with its own startup and shutdown period, John and his team must continually refine job functions and operational processes. He also focuses on building strategic partnership with renowned brands like the Hudson’s Bay Company, Canada Goose Inc. and National Geographic to elevate Frontiers North’s visibility. This past year the company garnered media exposure in a new category, food tourism, thanks to an innovative partnership with Parks Canada and the creators of Winnipeg’s RAW:almond pop-up restaurant. In March 2016, the partnership launched RAW:churchill, a culinary and adventure pilot project beneath the northern lights, on the exact same spot that the women and men of the Hudson's Bay Company would have sat more than 250 years ago.

Tips for Success
Find a good mentor, John says. “For a decade he and I worked side-by-side on many different projects. I learned a lot — I practically got my MBA from this guy. He challenged me. He wasn’t a cheerleader. He was there to push me and teach me how to make tough decisions.” As well, considering how much his job involves marketing Frontiers North Adventures in overseas markets, John wishes along the way that he’d learned another language and participated in Asper’s International Exchange program while a student — “not just for the language skills, but the personal growth.”

Visit frontiersnorth.com to learn more!

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