Arni Mikelsons, founder of Northern Village, said after working for some big companies in his career, he decided to become an entrepreneur. His company, Northern Village, is a website and software company that helps social impact organizations with their web-based needs.
During the pandemic, when the phone seemed to stop ringing and clients were cautious about investing in websites, Mikelsons saw an opportunity to reposition the company and expand his customized software offerings while relearning to code with a new software platform! The company worked with Street Health in Toronto delivering Access2ID that enables homeless people to recover their lost ID. Mikelsons is using the $15K his company recently won through the Meridian Small Business Contest, which was focused on resilience, innovation and community spirit, to complete work on this web platform database so they can make it available as a software as a service (SAAS) across Canada.
A Force for Good
Attaining B Corp certification was very important to the founder. “The certification says you are in business as a force for good, we’re not just claiming it ourselves,” he said. “By meeting the criteria, it says you’re indeed doing good things!” Mikelsons partners with Animikii – an indigenous technology company – that is the basis for their website software. Mikelsons said that he enjoys working with other B Corps and social impact clients as well as small businesses and other software startups.
“Since we made the pivot to software, our growth is good, mainly because the software projects we undertake are bigger,” he said, adding, his team has grown to include four new staff. He said the Startup Program at Innovation Guelph has provided him mentorship. When he runs into a new challenge, he has someone to consult for help. IG mentor Mark Goldberg has also been effective at pushing Mikelsons to get more systems in place while another IG mentor, Stacey Curry Gunn, has provided marketing expertise.
As an entrepreneur, Mikelsons said that wanting to do good in the world is one of his main characteristics. “Wanting to make sure clients are happy and that we are delivering a product suited to our clients’ needs is motivating.” He said he gets fulfillment from helping social benefit companies fulfil their missions.
One such client, the Adopt-a-Family Program at Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington, was enabled through Northern Village’s creation of a secure software program to manage the process where social workers identified families, instead of them having to self-identify. Then the families’ needs and wants could be entered and matched to donors who registered and entered information about their donation budgets. He’s looking to make this program available as a SAAS too and is seeking funding to research target markets and how best to proceed.
Success Inspires Approach to Challenges
He said when he started the business, he was doing websites for social benefit companies to do good in the world. While he hadn’t anticipated pivoting to software, he’s seeing how he may be more impactful in this way than with websites alone. He has faced challenges, especially due to working in the social benefit sector, but mostly problems that have always existed, he said. “Knowing we’ve had success provides the energy to do more and to work through problems and overcome challenges.”