Young entrepreneurs shine at Staples expo

By Cecilia Nasmith

Customers entering the Staples Business Depot in Cobourg Wednesday would have gotten a bonus – the chance to meet Northumberland's newest entrepreneurs at the annual Summer Company showcase coordinated by the Business and Entrepreneurship Centre Northumberland.

from left are Summer Company Program entrepreneurs Raid Hajhasan, Rohan O'Neill, Ella Scozzari and Gryphon Nixon-Briard, Northumberland County Acting Warden Bob Sanderson, Summer Company entrepreneurs Shanakay Hall, Meaghan Herrington and Alexis Needs, and Northumberland-Peterborough South MP Kim Rudd

The trade-show style event was being duplicated in communities across Ontario, youth programs coordinator Kailyn Coupland said, thanks to a partnership between the program and the Staples company.

The seven student entrepreneurs participating in the Cobourg Staples are this year's successful applicants in the Summer Company Program that is offered locally through the Business and Entrepreneurship Centre Northumberland.

It's a competition open each year to students between the ages of 15 and 29, who are invited to submit a detailed business plan to the program. If selected, they may receive up to $3,000 in grants, products, services and mentorship.

The business plan is an exercise that involves research, analysis, motivation and elbow grease, and seven students made the grade this year.

Gryphon Nixon-Briard of Port Hope has established WeeBoba Bubble Tea in the Port Hope area, offering a pop-up tea-shop experience at Northumberland festivals and events with a unique product – a flavoured tea containing tapioca pearls. It's something Gryphon enjoyed in Oshawa and Peterborough, and noted a definite absence of locally.

“I hate driving to Peterborough,” the recent Port Hope High School graduate commented.

You can catch him as a regular at the Port Hope Farmers' Markets and Movies in the Park events, or call him at 905-376-7493.

Raid Hajhasan is a student at the Centre for Individual Studies, and finds summer a perfect time for the car detailing he loves.

He has also lucked into a great Cobourg location for his new business, Rapid Raid Car Detailing, at Carstead Motor Trends on Division Street. Raid offers superior interior- and exterior-detailing services in a quick and cost-efficient manner, with packages priced to fit any budget. For more information, drop in at Carstead or call Raid at 289-829-1996.

Meaghan Herrington started the Early Morning Relief Milking & Farm Services company outside of Brighton. As the name implies, the company offers various farming tasks to assist the busy farmer such as cow clipping (including full body, head, udders and tail), barn cleaning, relief milking and help with other chores.

Meaghan certainly has the qualifications, as she has years of experience on the family dairy farm and in 4H. She hopes to pursue dairy farming as a career, though this fall she will spend her time in Grade 12 at East Northumberland Secondary School. You can reach her at 613-849-9976.

Alexis Needs has established Cobourg-based Breathe Safely, a company that provides local small businesses an opportunity to implement health and safety into work environments. For those companies that may not have HR services, Breathe Safely provides descriptive safety manuals and specific directions regarding the implementation of health and safety plans in compliance with the Health and Safety Act.

A University of Guelph student in the psychology program, Alexis was influenced to start the business by family members who were in the safety field and discussed their concerns about injured workers extensively. Her idea was to take that concern, and go proactive with manuals using her own skills. You can reach her at 705-542-4947.

Shanakay Hall has set up the S Kay Creative studio based out of Cobourg, offering web design, graphic design and e-mail marketing services to growing Northumberland businesses and entrepreneurs.

“I wanted to take what I have been working on and doing for other people and run my own business,” Shanakay said.

“I am learning a lot and looking to secure new clients,” she added, noting that the Staples exhibition had been most helpful in this regard.

Shanakay is a web-development student at Humber College, and you can reach her at 647-274-3188.

Ella Scozzari has started her neptune2earth business in Campbellford, offering Tarot and astrology readings and reports to clients (including on-line and video-based services) that provide a spiritual method of gaining insight into such areas as past, present and future relationships and one's inner self.

It's an area she's been keenly interested in for four years.

“I spent a lot of time researching it, and I feel I know it like the back of my hand,” Ella said.

“I do readings for friends who need advice and guidance, and now I am making money doing what I love.”

Ella will return to Campbellford District High School in the fall for Grade 11, and she can be reached at

Rohan O'Neill started the Baywater Forge company in Campbellford, offering high-quality hand-forged tools. These include tomahawks, knives, garden trowels, fireplace shovels and hooks, as well as specialized custom-made implements crafted with the hunter, fisher, gardener and camper in mind.

He's always been interested in crafting his own knives and swords, so he contacted a local blacksmith to see if he could take some courses. Now he knows the ins and outs, and was even able to purchase his own forge thanks to the Summer Company Program support.

Rohan was proud to show off what he's done so far.

“It's a balance of getting something that looks cool but is also utilitarian,” he said, displaying a few of his pieces.

Rohan will join Ella in Grade 11 at CDHS this fall, and you can reach him at 905-632-6735.

Northumberland director of economic development and tourism Dan Borowec was proud to escort such visitors as Northumberland-Peterborough South MP Kim Rudd to the various entrepreneur displays.

“It's a great event for young entrepreneurs, because it gives them some profile, and it's a great partnership with Staples,” Borowec said.

“In many ways, it's a very safe environment to have one-on-one conversations when asked what they do.

“It's also important for young entrepreneurs to get some recognition from those who have done that, and Kim is a good example,” he said, referring to the several successful businesses of her own that the MP had begun before going to Ottawa.

And, just to show how important entrepreneurship is to the local economy, Borowec said that 111 entrepreneurs in Northumberland began businesses last year, creating 135 good jobs.

Coupland said that the program typically gets 40 applications each year, with plans for everything from lawn care, gluten-free baking and personal fitness to hand-made clothing and jewelry making.

Since 2001, the program has seen $426,000 spent to set up 142 summer businesses.