While no one thought riding out this pandemic was going to be easy, and the unfortunate closing of some businesses who were unable to weather the impact could be anticipated, the incredible resilience and creativity of entrepreneurs who invented, reinvented, and persevered during 2020 may be a story we didn’t expect.

“It’s a fact that entrepreneurs possess resiliency, creativity and determination,” said Innovation Guelph CEO Anne Toner Fung. “They are disruptors and problem solvers. Many of our clients have demonstrated these qualities over the past year; and it is inspiring.”

Pivoting existing equipment and technology

One of the earliest IG clients to pivot and problem solve was Dixon’s Distilled Spirits who rallied to be among the first local distilleries to support the community by producing sanitizer as described in this Guelph Today article, ‘I’m a moonshiner, but now I make hand sanitizer.’   Even at one point offering the sanitizer free, Dixon’s found a market with health care professionals and consumers and they continue to produce it.

Precision BiomonitoringWhen reflecting on the last year and the rise of COVID-19, client Precision Biomonitoring is a big player in this story! The company continues to innovate around testing capabilities receiving federal funding  and has partnered with other organizations to bring their testing to northern Indigenous communities. Precision also received funding to manufacture TripleLock™ SARS CoV-2 Go-Strips that received approval from Health Canada.

Can you imagine if there were a self-sterilizing coating that could kill the virus on contact? IG Alumni Envision SQ transformed its smog-destroying traffic barrier technology into a virus crusher! We featured their incredible story on our blog. The Globe and Mail also included Envision SQ in a story about COVID-19 related innovations.

The pandemic state of emergency provided client IRIS R&D with an opportunity to showcase their iPORT road monitoring solutions. The company’s research led to a novel use of their technology allowing passive, remote, contactless measurement of heart rate, breathing rate and skin temperature tested in Hamilton hospitals.


Compassion Born of COVID-19

Small Wonders Therapy HorsesSome entrepreneurial problem solvers took a completely different approach to the pandemic. Small Wonders therapy horses visited seniors providing a much-appreciated new experience and welcomed visit to those who may have been learning how to cope with isolation.

Innovation Guelph also pivoted to virtual and online programming when our offices closed to the public. We were surprised when a group of Rhyze Ventures clients reported developing stronger relationships with peers through virtual networking than in-class sessions – information that may influence some programming components beyond the pandemic.

Penny Lane OrganicaInterestingly, client Penny Lane Organics had been enjoying consistent online sales through well.ca and their own website before the pandemic. However, in the last year sales increased dramatically by 75 per cent in March 2020 with consistent growth. Penny Lane’s owner, Alexa Campbell, will be launching on Amazon to open another ecommerce front!

The Guelph Box began with the goal of helping local vendors continue to reach customers during the pandemic. The two founding teens offer boxes comprised of locally sourced items delivered in the Guelph area. They donate five per cent from every Guelph Box sold to a local charity resulting in over $15,000 in donations so far.

Membella's MarketMambella’s Italian Kitchen had always carried frozen meals but when the pandemic hit and restaurants were forced to close, owner Tina Brisbin streamlined her menu and pivoted to her frozen food line to specialized comfort foods like Dirty Mac and Cheese. The frozen foods have done well, which she said was proof that people craved comfort!

While this list is not comprehensive, it does illustrate how entrepreneurs met the pandemic in innovative, compassionate, and creative ways. In some cases, their resiliency revealed new revenue streams, applications, and technologies. In other cases, they either found new ways to serve customers or continued to provide services and products online but with substantial growth.

As we approach pandemic year two, we know our clients will continue to find opportunities—because that is what entrepreneurs do. For our part, we’ll continue to celebrate their resiliency, creativity and perseverance at every opportunity.