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Chatham-Kent Innovation Outposts – A Year in Review

You might call this a bit of a love letter to small business in Chatham-Kent, and I am completely fine with that because this year was a testament of how dedicated our business community is to supporting local, supporting each other, and raising the bar when it comes to building a strong economy. For those of you who know and for those of you who are curious, there was a series of three in-person Innovation Outpost events that were held in Chatham-Kent over the course of 2022. These events, which were powered by Libro Credit Union, connected businesses with important resources designed to inspire growth and strong relationships.

All three events were hosted by WETechAlliance and included local partners such as Chatham-Kent Economic Development and the Small Business Centre. The events were set at a variety of locations which included SOAR Innovation, The Co., and Turns and Tales.

Not only was each event packed with a mix of engaging speakers, educational topics, and inspiring community leaders, there was also a mix of open and facilitated networking which invited people to connect in different ways. A part of the Innovation Outposts goal is to include community building activities and workshops to that connect entrepreneurs and support business development. The success of each of these events was apparent when the formal session would end and people would stay and continue conversations well into the evening.

As someone who was helping to organize and run the events, I was thrilled to see a collection of new and familiar faces attending the sessions. We had people from a wide variety of industries, locations, and experience levels; this included those working on starting a business, some who have been running for a few years, and seasoned veterans.

Some of my favourite quotes I heard were at the second event held at the Co. where a panel of three outstanding women entrepreneurs shared their stories of launching and growing businesses, just as the pandemic was starting. Robyn Perkins, owner of Traylor Parkers restaurant, said, “We’re creating memories for people, and that makes the business so worth it every day. It’s the people, it’s what I love.”

This was followed by Stephanie Laforet, owner of the Esthetics Studio, who said, “When you wake up each day, you have to make the decision to be in the mindset that is positive. It’s going to be a good day, I’m going to make a difference.”

Angel Bilagot, owner of the Co., continued with, “I’m going to add to that, because I think that when you care that much about your business, it gives you the freedom to make decisions. It’s about the freedom and it being fun.”

It’s moments like these that were exciting, filled with passion, and had everyone in the room nodding their heads and applauding. It’s also events like the Chatham-Kent Innovation Outposts this year which have me reflecting on how many positive steps have been taken over the past several years. The great news is, this momentum is going to continue because we have a community that shops local, invests local, and will rise together to meet any new opportunity that comes our way.

WETechAlliance is one of seventeen Regional Innovation Centres, funded by the Province of Ontario, serving the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent regions. We provide entrepreneurs with business services, training, perks, mentorship and strategic connections to help bring new ideas to market, scale to the next level and build a dynamic culture and a community of innovation. WETechAlliance has served as the catalyst for technology and innovation in the Windsor-Essex + Chatham-Kent regions since 2011.

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