Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship participant gets boost from SmartStart Seed Fund

When Sharon Reeds got a card in the mail congratulating her on her success, the entrepreneur had only herself to thank.

After all, Reeds wrote the postcard full of encouraging words while she was a participant in Goodman Group — Venture Development’s Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship (KSE) program last fall to remind her future self she deserved all she has accomplished.

Even better that the card arrived this spring on the heels of news that upstart Intuitive Shipping, which CEO Reeds co-founded with her husband Joel, had secured an Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) SmartStart Seed Fund grant worth $30,000. Delivered by OCE, with support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), SmartStart is a rigorous competition between new start-ups to fund their entrepreneurial endeavours.

Reeds is the first participant in the Goodman School of Business’ KSE program to receive the prestigious financial boost for her endeavour.

As much as Reeds sweated over every word of her grant application, she knew she and Joel had created a rock-solid business with their advanced e-commerce shipping rate calculation app.

“This was the first time I felt super confident about getting something. We’re putting something into the workforce so how can you say no to that?” Reeds said. “We are bootstrapped. We’ve not had investors … but we’re kicking butt.”

Cassie Price, KSE Program Co-ordinator, knew Reeds was a top contender for the highly competitive provincial award.

“She was a little further along than some of the other entrepreneurs in the program,” Price said. “She was operating her business already as opposed to other entrepreneurs in the program who may have just a great idea or business plan. She’s got a great business and a dynamic team.”

Intuitive Shipping is a subscription service for e-commerce retailers that enables them to charge their online customers the right price for shipping at checkout, ensuring predictable profits on every transaction and the confidence to scale. The idea for it came in 2011 when a friend running a hobby shop needed a simple way to calculate shipping costs based on the total price for an online order.

Joel started working in earnest on a solution not offered by other online shipping calculators, and soon Intuitive Shipping began gaining traction on Shopify, surpassing other apps as the preferred choice by e-retailers.

Reeds headed up research and customer relations full time, turning this into more than a side hustle for Joel, who officially joined his wife as the company’s second full-time employee in February.

The grant from OCE has enabled them to double Intuitive Shipping’s staff once again and hire two “exceptional people.” Since then, business has quadrupled, Reeds said.

“Stuff that’s been on our to-do list for six months is getting done now,” she said.

The seed money also shows potential investors that a credible organization sees merit in Intuitive Shipping, which can open many more proverbial doors for the business, Reeds explained.

Still, it likely would not have happened had she not tapped into the KSE program, offered by the Goodman Group — Venture Development business incubator, and all the resources it has to offer.

Goodman Group provides businesses, students and the community with direct access to learning and development services offered by faculty, staff and students at Brock’s Goodman School of Business. It also serves as a hub for the community and a place where entrepreneurs and innovators can grow professionally.

The KSE program provides up to 35 youth between the ages of 18 and 29 with two intensive training weekends, monthly seminars and events led by established entrepreneurs. Participants also have access to mentorship and advisory services from Goodman Group — Venture Development and Innovate Niagara, a regional innovation centre.

KSE provided opportunities to collaborate with entrepreneurs, which fed Reeds’ enterprising spirit while helping her further develop her business acumen. She learned everything from how to project her voice during a pitch to writing those supportive, congratulatory notes to herself, and then some.

“Honestly, if you want to be an entrepreneur, the KSE program will provide the knowledge, skills, and connections to get a massive head start in a business venture. I lost count of how many times I thought, ‘this would have been nice to know six months ago,’” she said.

The KSE program also benefits from Reeds’ gain as a SmartStart grant recipient, noted Goodman Dean Andrew Gaudes. It demonstrates the type of connections participants in the program can make, the support they receive and the successes that can be achieved.

“Intuitive Shipping is a great example of a company that is taking advantage of the support services available to entrepreneurs in Niagara,” he said. “This success shows entrepreneurs that working with Goodman Group can help support your business venture, elevating it to the next level.”

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