"At the end of the day, what is the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work out, you will have gained some great experience that can be utilized in future workplaces. Employers are always looking for forward thinking, hardworking individuals and an entrepreneur fits that bill perfectly."
Hub Spotlight: Forward Innovation
Forward Innovation provides design solutions for demanding industry problems. With a foundation in agriculture and ambitious goals to expand to other industries, they aim to provide mechanical designs with quality and integrity. The goal is to work with clients to generate innovative solutions, helping them to propel their businesses forward.
We chatted with Philip van Veen, an undergraduate student in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and one of the cofounders of Forward Innovation, about how they took the next step in their business.
How did you come up with Forward Innovation?
In September 2019, Ben and Phil went to Canada’s Outdoor Farm show in Woodstock, Ontario to get a look at some of the new products being introduced to the Ag Market. While at this event, we met up with a company called AgriBrink, who manufactures and sells Central Tire Inflation Systems (CTIS). After an extensive conversation with the owner of this company, he explained a potential problem that he was having with his system. Knowing that we were engineering students, he asked if we would think about a solution to his problem, and potentially develop a product for him. Over the past two school terms, multiple ideas and designs have been concepted. In the Winter term of 2019, as a team we utilized a school design course to do further research into the problem and develop the concept. Over the past month and a half the team has been working full time on finalizing the design. We plan to begin product validation and testing within the next few weeks as well as submitting some grant applications to help cover some costs of the project.
What motivated you to take the next step and apply to the Hub?
Since second year, we as a team have been very interested in the Hub program and entrepreneurship in general. We wanted to still utilize our co-op work terms to gain valuable experience, especially early on in our careers. We originally planned on participating in the program in the Fall of 2020, which would have been our last co-op work term. However, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many of us lost or were unable to obtain jobs as we had originally planned. As a result, we decided to utilize this opportunity to accelerate our company, through the Hub in the summer program. Before we joined the Hub, we had many different conversations with Tyler Zemlak and participated in a startup social event where we met many up and coming entrepreneurs. We were very excited to utilize the hub to develop our project idea, learn about being a company, and receive mentorship from individuals from a wide range of business backgrounds and experiences.
What do you hope to get out of the Hub?
We hope to use the hub to develop our product and establish ourselves as a company. By using the different resources provided throughout the program, we believe that we will be able to learn some valuable information that will be the building blocks to our company. We also hope to use it as way to be accountable to meet our goals and push ourselves in this learning process.
The hub is also a great opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs and mentors. Through these networking connections we hope to share and receive experience, knowledge, and resources in a collaborative manner.
Do you have any advice for someone with a business idea in mind, but are not sure what to do next?
The advice that we would give would be to “keep taking small upward steps”. We understand that in the beginning stages of product or idea development, it may be frustrating to make connections and significant progress. Here are a few simple steps to progress your ideas:
Make connections and have conversations. It may be intimidating to approach people, but talking to people who have more experience is the best way to learn and make future connections. There is no such thing as a bad question.
- Record your progress. Recording your work is extremely important in the development of an idea. It helps you keep track of what works well and what didn’t. It is a great way to learn from your mistakes and become more effective later on.
- Make realistic goals. It may be hard to stay motivated, especially when you don’t see rapid progress or see the light at the end of the tunnel. Making goals and meeting them is a great way to stay focused. However, make sure these goals are realistic. As the project progresses, it is ok to adjust your goals for more realistic timelines.
- Celebrate the small wins. This is a great way to motivate yourself for the next steps in your project!
Philip's final piece of advice, and the question he asks himself, is:
Housed within the John F. Wood Centre for Business & Student Enterprise (Wood Centre), the Hub is a business incubator designed to support early-stage business ideas with high-potential, but unproven business models. The goal of the Hub is to provide University of Guelph students (undergraduate and graduate) and alumni the opportunity to build a successful business enterprise in a supportive learning environment.
The Hub has a tiered program that ensures a good mix of start-up companies at varying stages of growth. “Hub Start” is for ventures still getting their idea off the ground. These ventures typically have a great team and a great idea, but still have not demonstrated product-market fit with traction. “Hub Build” is for ventures with traction looking to refine their business model and/or scale.