Conestoga news

November 4, 2021 10:28 AM

New award supports diversity in entrepreneurship

Two companies in Conestoga’s Venture Lab have been named recipients of the Equitable Life of Canada Community Venture Award. The winning companies, Accessibrand and The Rise Class, were announced during Diversity and Community in Entrepreneurship - a session held as part of the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Festival which ran October 25 through 29 to showcase the labs and programs hosted through the collective.

Conestoga College - Jolene Macdonald.jpg
Accessibrand, launched by Conestoga graduate Jolene MacDonald, was named a winner of the new Equitable Life of Canada Community Venture Award.

The new awards are valued at $1,500 each and were launched this year to recognize entrepreneurs for their passion, perseverance and dedication as they strive to successfully launch businesses that seek to strengthen the community and improve quality of life for those living in Waterloo Region. Applications were only accepted from companies participating in Conestoga’s Venture Lab.

“We are grateful to Equitable Life for providing the opportunity to shine a light on these types of ventures and the challenges that they seek to overcome in the community,” said Rose Mastnak, director, Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective (CEC). “These awards will help them in their mission to serve the community.”

The Venture Lab, the college’s own business incubator, is part of the CEC and designed to support the development of early-stage start-ups. The program includes four months of one-on-one coaching with a venture coach, a customized development road map for each company, workshops and targeted sessions with subject matter experts and access to industry mentors as well as college and community new venture development resources.

“We will continue to keep putting investments like this towards more opportunities to help improve the disabled community and offer flexible work and, of course, to improve visual accessibility in all marketing design,” said Jolene MacDonald founder of Accessibrand, a full-service accessibility-focused design and marketing agency. MacDonald is a 1999 Graphic Design graduate and 2016 Conestoga Alumni of Distinction honouree.

The Rise Class also received a Community Venture award. The company, founded by Conestoga graduate Angela Onuora, helps underrepresented individuals produce short films.

Angela Onuora, a graduate of Conestoga’s Broadcasting Performance and Digital Media graduate certificate program, heads The Rise Class, a one-week crash course in video production created to give the most underserved people in the community like special needs groups, refugees, at-risk women and youth in the community an opportunity to find their voice and be seen.

“This means a lot to me,” said Onuora. “This project has been a passion project and just know that you’ve been able to give something tangible to people who would like to have a voice who but haven’t been able to do so.”

Aimed at empowering underrepresented individuals who are unable to commit to full-time studies, the goal of The Rise Class is to produce a five-minute short film that is written, shot and edited by participants of the program.

“We are pleased to support the very important work of Accessibrand and The Rise Class,” said Rebecca Freiburger, Equitable Life of Canada. “Our communities thrive when entrepreneurs like Jolene and Angela develop business models that focus on delivering lasting social impacts.”

The Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective empowers and inspires students and alumni to successfully participate in the Waterloo Region entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem by providing multiple pathways for engagement that include developing a new business, becoming a corporate innovator and providing support systems to the ecosystem. In addition to the Gig Lab, the collective also offers programming through the Sales Lab and the Venture Lab.

Applications for the Venture Lab's next cohort close December 2. For more information, contact the CEC.