Two SMU student entrepreneurs receive $1,000 each in funding

by | Dec 3, 2019

Entrepreneurship is embedded in the student experience at Saint Mary’s University (SMU). Students like Nevell Provo and Guillermo Villarreal are among the innovative thinkers launching their own businesses while also working towards their undergraduate degree at SMU. It was announced last week that both Nevell and Guillermo would receive $1,000 to put towards their businesses; funding offered through new a micro fund offered by the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre (SMUEC). Nevell and Guillermo have been receiving ongoing business support from consultants at the SMUEC since September.

 

“Managing cashflow is essential, especially in the early stages of a business. We are excited to see this funding go to two hardworking student entrepreneurs and help their businesses flourish. We’ve already seen huge growth in both companies just since September,” said Michael Sanderson, Director of the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre.

Nevell Provo is a Saint Mary’s varsity athlete, Commerce undergrad student, and Founder of Smooth Meal Prep. This meal subscription service is committed to bringing healthy meals to Canadians. The company was launched in January 2019, with the help of his Mother and brother; the team has since hired 9 employees, served over 10,000 meals, and generated over $150,000 in revenue.

Nevell plans to use the $1,000 in funding to put towards marketing materials and branded mini fridges that will be placed in local gyms. In October, Nevell placed second in the Atlantic Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards, receiving $750 in funding, a one-month kiosk at the Halifax Shopping Centre, and additional prizes. Smooth Meal Prep set up their kiosk on Black Friday, and will remain at the Halifax Shopping Centre until December 27.

Guillermo Villarreal, Founder of Clean Catch Inc., began working on his business concept in the summer of 2019. In the fall, he launched the company with four students in his entrepreneurship course. The team of five developed a prototype for a 100% biodegradable, PVC-free, recreational soft bait fishing lures, as an alternative to single use plastic-based fishing lures. Their plan is to use the $1,000 in funding to purchase professional molds and raw materials.

The team recently competed in Innovacorp’s Blue-Green Challenge, a pitch competition that focuses on innovative solutions to problems in the ocean and agricultural sectors, where they received $5,000 to progress the idea further. Clean Catch Baits place second in the Spark Zone pitch competition last Friday, securing an additional $300 in funding.

If you’re a student entrepreneur at SMU, keep your eye out for the opportunity to apply for one of two additional $1,000 grants that will be available in January, 2020.

Source: SMUEC

January 19, 2021 — Guillermo Villarreal

Halifax Entrepreneurs Hope To Hook A Big One With Clean Catch Baits

Nov 20, 2020 by Derek Montague

HALIFAX – Guillermo Villarreal was first taught the sport of fishing by his father when he was just six years old. Together, they fished for large bass in the northern region of Mexico and even entered competitions. For the father and son, fishing was an activity they did nearly every weekend.

It’s no surprise that, while taking a business class at Saint Mary’s in 2019, Villarreal chose fishing as a theme when he had to create a business idea. Looking back, Villarreal realized that a lot of plastic waste ends up in the water when fishermen would lose their lures.

“One of the main lures that we use are made of soft plastics,” explained Villarreal.

“Once we finished fishing and we see that the lure is not really useful anymore…we would just dispose of the lure in the water. And we didn’t really think back then of the consequences of the disposal of these lures.”

From that business class, Villareal came up with the company Clean Catch Baits, which creates lures that completely biodegrade within six months. He can’t disclose the materials he uses for the lures since he is hoping to get the design patented. But he does claim that the fishing lures are “organic, plant-based, and ethically harvested.”

The issue of plastic waste has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. Not only does plastic harm the fish and animals when they enter the water, but studies have shown that invisible microplastics are becoming a common problem in drinking water supplies.

Villarreal’s idea has received some traction in the business community. Over the past year, Clean Catch Baits has raised money for research and development through pitch competitions. In their first one, they won a $5,000 price. More recently they won more than $20,000 in a pitch competition.

Clean Catch Baits is hoping to manufacture their lures and bring them to market by the spring of 2021. It’s a big accomplishment considering that, less than a year ago, the Clean Catch team was making these lures in Villarreal’s kitchen.

So, the big question is: can this biodegradable lure still catch fish? According to Villareal, product testing has been successful so far. The company has used 100 anglers throughout North America for trial runs, and they were able to catch large fish, including some hefty bass, using the biodegradable lures.

“They’ve caught fish since our first round of product testing, but we’ve got better numbers on the second round,” said Villarreal.

Villarreal isn’t the only person involved with launching Clean Catch Baits. When he came up with the idea back in 2019, two of his Saint Mary’s classmates jumped on board: Robel Berhane and Kati Vanzutphen. The three business partners are all under 25. Villarreal and Vanzutphen recently graduated with their degrees in entrepreneurship, while Berhane is finishing up his degree.

“Personally, I don’t have much of a background in fishing,” said Berhane. “I came into play with the whole sustainability side of things and I also have a love for the outdoors as well.

Back in 2019, Berhane was originally part of a separate group in the business class. But when he heard Villarreal’s pitch, he decided to join him.

“I spoke to my professor that day after class and told her that I’m not really interested in what my current group was doing,” recalled Berhane. “I’m very grateful that I did that. What we’re doing is something bigger than the classroom, and we all recognize that.”

Berhane said he knew everyone was committed to the company when they discussed what to do with the money that they won at their first pitch competition.

“We all immediately agreed, we’re putting this back into the company,” recalled Berhane. “And we’re going to retain it so we can continue to grow the company.”

“Myself, Guillermo, and Kati haven’t taken anything out to pay ourselves for any of the earnings that we’ve gotten.”

 

Source: Huddle.today

January 19, 2021 — Guillermo Villarreal

Blue-Green, Start-up Yard Winners

DEC 05, 2019 PETER MOREIRA

Innovacorp has announced the companies selected to participate in its Blue-Green Challenge and Start-Up Yard at COVEcohort for the 2019-2020 season.

The Nova Scotia government’s early-stage venture capital agency issued a statement Thursday saying Blue-Green Challenge round one winners receive $5,000 as well as guidance from business veterans. Round two winners receive $10,000. The Blue-Green Challenge, a competition for startups involved in ocean technology, agritech or cleantech, is delivered by Innovacorp with support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Start-Up Yard participants – which are all oceantech companies – receive $22,500 and access to mentoring, workshops and space at the harbourside facility in Dartmouth. The intake announced Thursday is the third cohort of the program.

The winners are:

BLUE-GREEN ROUND ONE

Oceantech

44 North – Calder Robinson, David Barclay, Emmanuelle Cook, Michael Beaudoin – Halifax

Navigation system to optimize ocean transit using underwater currents.

BlackWatch.Tech – Jonathan Raimund, Matt d’Entremont – Yarmouth 

Man-overboard device to reduce fisher fatality

Clean Catch Inc. – Guillermo Villarreal De Lara, Katherine Vanzutphen, Craig Retson, Robel Berhane, Hohnathan LePage-Billard – Halifax 

Sustainable alternative to single-use, plastic fishing lures

Clean Valley CIC – Nicholas LaValle, Zhen Xiong, Damir Allen – Dartmouth

Non-toxic solutions for microplastics pollution

Easy Ocean Technology – Luting Zhang, Zhaohua Sun – Halifax

Smartphone application to capture ocean optical data, including early prediction of harmful algal blooms

Marimetrics Technologies – Chris L'Esperance – Halifax 

Trace gas analyzer to measure chemical compounds in the ocean

Pombcoup Technologies – Marc d'Entremont, Angie Greene – Yarmouth

Trawler system to protect the seabed by avoiding contact with the ocean floor

SailTimer – Craig Summers – Halifax 

Crowd-sourced wind maps from sensors on sailboats to improve marine weather forecasts

Tracker Inventory Systems – Gavin Andrews, Matthew Pyne – Sydney

Automated inventory management for seafood and agriculture producers

Cleantech and Agritech

Bio Graphene Solutions – Gary Van Dusen – Annapolis Royal 

Graphene made from organic and renewable feedstocks

ADAPT Innovation – Young Chang – Truro

Agriculture image processing hardware for drones

Electric Owl Solutions – Margaret Dron – Halifax 

Software to help grow food in urban environments and small-scale farms

myFlock – James Walsh – Kentville 

Technology to reduce risk and operating inefficiencies in the poultry supply chain

Plasma Agricultural Solutions – Lord Abbey, GL Rao, NN Misra – Truro

Treatment to improve seed health and quality

BLUE-GREEN ROUND TWO

44 North – Calder Robinson, David Barclay, Emmanuelle Cook, Michael Beaudoin – Halifax

Navigation system to optimize ocean transit using underwater currents

Tracker Inventory Systems – Gavin Andrews, Matthew Pyne – Sydney

Automated inventory management for seafood and agriculture producers

Electric Owl Solutions – Margaret Dron – Halifax 

Software to help grow food in urban environments and small-scale farms

myFlock – James Walsh – Kentville 

Technology to reduce risk and operating inefficiencies in the poultry supply chain

Plasma Agricultural Solutions – Lord Abbey, GL Rao, NN Misra – Truro

Treatment to improve seed health and quality

START-UP YARD

Copsys Industries – Farzad Hashemi – Halifax

Corrosion management technology to protect assets and reduce maintenance

SeaChange Biochemistry – Brad Park – Halifax

Technology to convert sustainable feedstocks to green chemicals

Ocean Protection Engineering Group – Andrew MacDonald, Carr Hallett – Dartmouth

All-weather emergency system to tow ships in distress

 

Source: Entrevestor

 

January 19, 2021 — Guillermo Villarreal

Bloxo, Clean Catch Shine at Apex

JAN 29, 2020 PETER MOREIRA

Bloxo and Clean Catch Baits, a pair of enterprises that grew out of Saint Mary’s University, captured two of the top spots at the Apex Business Plan Competition in Fredericton last week.

The two-day competition hosted by the University of New Brunswick’s International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre had 41 entries from across the country this year. Last year, there were 18 entries from Eastern Canada.

Bloxo, which won $5,000 for top place in the undergraduate stream, has developed an app that allows sports facility managers to post open time slots. Players and organizers can book those slots and bring in other players, who can join and pay for a game.

“Most of the money [from Apex]will go towards our official launch of Bloxo that will take place in Wednesday March 4 at Volta,” said Bloxo CEO Mubdu Alali in an email. “We will be inviting stakeholders in the sports and activities industry in the region and will make a live demo of Bloxo at the event.”

Clean Catch Baits, which was second in the undergrad stream and won third place in the Elevator Pitch competition, is developing sustainable fishing lures as an alternative to single-use plastic gear.

The 2020 Apex winners are:

Grad Track

1st Place: FlutterLet (University of British Columbia)

2nd Place: P4Pizza (University of Waterloo)

3rd Place: Nufuuds (McGill University)

Undergrad Track

1st Place: Bloxo (Saint Mary’s University)

2nd Place: Clean Catch Baits (Saint Mary’s University)

3rd Place: StoneOyster BioTechnologies (University of British Columbia)

Entrepreneurial Powerhouse

University of British Columbia: StoneOyster Biotechnologies and FlutterLet

Best Elevator Pitch

1st Place: Nufuuds (McGill University)

2nd Place: GreenSource (University of New Brunswick)

3rd Place: Clean Catch Baits

Planet Hatch Start-Up Visa Award

WelcomeU (University of New Brunswick)

Viewer's Choice Elevator Pitch:

GreenSource

 

Source: Entrevestor

January 19, 2021 — Guillermo Villarreal

Clean Catch Wins AquaHacking

SEP 23, 2020 PETER MOREIRA

 Halifax-based Clean Catch Inc, which plans to have its environmentally friendly fishing lures on the market next spring, has won $23,000 in the first AquaHacking Challenge held in Atlantic Canada.

The company, which formed at Saint Mary’s University last year, was one of 26 teams from across Atlantic Canada to enter the competition. It was awarded $2,000 in June when it was named one of five finalists. It then captured the $1,000 Viewers’ Choice Award (selected by people watching the live-streamed competition) and received $20,000 as the first prize.

 “This is a great prize and it will give us a lot of opportunity to move forward, especially because we’re getting close to finalizing our packaging and our branding,” said Co-Founder Guillermo Villarreal De Lara in an interview.

Clean Catch is developing biodegradable, PVC-free soft bait fishing lures for the sport fishing market, aiming to replace plastic lures that can leach harmful micro-plastics into lakes, rivers and oceans. The lures are fully biodegradable, completely dissolving within six months of being lost.

AquaHacking Challenges are nine-month programs held across Canada in which competitors work to solve water-related problems. The Atlantic version was organized by SMU’s Atlantic Water Network.

The competitions are the result of a 2012 challenge by the elder members of Quebec’s noted de Gaspé Beaubien business family, who asked their grandchildren to identify an area of philanthropy that they would like to become more involved in. The younger generation chose “water” as their focus, and the foundation developed a mission-brief that focuses on leveraging technology-related entrepreneurship and mentorship for environmental impact.

As well as the cash prizes, the winner also receives a spot in a local incubator, and Clean Catch has been awarded a spot at the Start-Up Yard in the COVE facility in Dartmouth.

The inspiration for Clean Catch dates back years to when Villarreal developed a love of angling while fishing for largemouth bass with his father in Northern Mexico. He continued fishing when he attended SMU as a business student, targeting smallmouth bass and striped bass around Halifax and in Colchester County.

He soon began to research natural substances that could be used to make lures to reduce the effects of fishing on the environment. In his senior year, he proposed making these lures as a project in one course, and soon he and some classmates formed the company.

The Clean Catch team now comprises Villareal, Robel Berhane, and Katherine vanZutphen. As well as winning money through Aquahacking, Clean Catch won $5,000 through Innovacorp’s Blue-Green Challenge earlier this year.

Clean Catch hopes to launch the product to the full market next year. So far, it has lined up 14 retail stores across Canada that are interested in selling the lures, and it is setting up its own ecommerce site.

The team is now carrying out its second product test with a group of anglers, and is gathering feedback from the beta-users.

“We have had a very good response so far,” said Villareal. “A lot of them have been looking for something to help the environment. And people are just excited about the idea because they are conscious of the use of plastics in fishing.”

Source: Entrevestor

January 19, 2021 — Guillermo Villarreal

Berhane Wins GSE Award

NOV 11, 2020 PETER MOREIRA

 Having won the Atlantic Canadian event, the Clean Bait CFO will move on to the national finals.

Robel Berhane, Co-founder and CFO of Halifax-based Clean Catch Inc., has been named Global Student Entrepreneur for Atlantic Canada in the recent Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.    

Clean Catch is developing biodegradable, PVC-free soft bait fishing lures for the sport fishing market, aiming to replace plastic lures that can leach harmful micro-plastics into lakes, rivers and oceans. The lures are fully biodegradable, completely dissolving within six months of being lost.

The company, which formed at Saint Mary’s University last year, recently won a total of $23,000 in the first AquaHacking Challenge held in Atlantic Canada.

Berhane said his award is an honour, especially given the GSEA’s rich history of driving innovation.  He said the pandemic has revealed the depths of human resilience and that the work of Clean Catch has been largely uninterrupted over recent months.

“We used the spring and summer of 2020 as an opportunity to listen to our direct and indirect customers to be able to establish ourselves as an empathetic solution provider to the recreational fishing lure industry,” he said in an email.

“With recent events creating conflict in Nova Scotia, Clean Catch has devoted greater resources into the commercial lobster fishing industry. Our recreational baits are being perfected and will be ready for purchase in the spring of 2021.” 

The Global Student Entrepreneur Awards is an international competition for students who own and operate a business while attending college or university and is run by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Berhane won his award at a virtual event held Oct. 28. He will go on to represent the region at the national competition on Jan. 21 next year.

Source: Entrevestor

January 19, 2021 — Guillermo Villarreal