Michelle Campbell and Andrew Holford had a job-related meeting on a construction site about a bulding project that ended up launching a business that's caught Hamilton's attention.
“[Michelle] is a celiac and practices martial arts and couldn't find anything to eat,” Holford said.
That's what lead Campbell and Holford to start 2Go Energy, a business that creates wheat, gluten and soy protein-free energy products such as energy bars, cookies and truffles.
2Go Energy was one of the top scoring start-ups in Start-Off, a social media competition to support new local businesses, run by Hamilton's Innovation Factory. Awards were handed out Friday morning.
“We had people from coast to coast voting for us,” Campbell said.
They now walk away with some cash to do “luxury” things for a start-up such as patenting a trademark.
The award marks the Innovation Factory's second birthday. The full-house at Friday's award ceremony is a testament to Hamilton's growing entrepreneurial community.
“First, we had to create a start-up community, then we had to engage the community with that,” IF executive director Ron Neumann said. “Startoff and Lion's Lair demonstrate the community is getting engaged.”
Neumann, along with local businessman Mark Chamberlain, started IF to build a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in Hamilton. Two years and nine more staff later, Neumann said the company is still growing rapidly.
“We're not running out of start up companies," he said. "We thought, maybe by the first year, we've seen all the companies, but there are so many being generated."
Neumann has his own anecdote to measure the success.
“I dropped the mail off at this older couple's house and then they invite me in and engage me in a discussion as to why a group didn't win Lion's Lair,” said Neumann. “To know that the average couple sitting at home and spending time in the community is actually engaged in entrepreneurial activities is really exciting.”
The metrics for the StartOff initiative show that the community is engaged, too. Innovation Factory set a goal of 20,000 online votes during the competition. The competition saw 160, 231.
In its third year, the Innovation Factory will announce a new, larger facility with what Neumann calls a “collision centre,” a place for entrepreneurs with varying skills to meet and collaborate, much like Campbell and Holford's collision four years ago.
“Those kinds of collisions are what we're looking for,” Neumann said. “Combining technology, domain expertise and business expertise all in one place.”