A New Face on Small Business Lending.

Guest Blog: ATB LendR

By: Chett Matchett

In Alberta’s current economic state, we have all heard the message that now is the time to diversify, to support local businesses, to embrace innovation.

At ATB Financial, we have found this message to be exciting, motivating, and ultimately one of the catalysts to start reimagining what the future of banking looks like.

We have found ourselves asking questions like:What if we were more than just a bank?

What if banking was the avenue to all happiness?

How can we help small businesses in Alberta in a truly unique/different way?

What if… EVERY Albertan could lend to an Alberta business?

 

Introducing ATB LendR. A new face to small business lending.

Your face.

 

What is ATB LendR?

ATB LendR is a crowdlending platform, promoting economic diversity and growth in Alberta through peer to peer lending. Using what we’re calling a Lift Loan, ATB checks the basics, sets the terms, and commits that if you – the crowd – likes their story and is willing to lift the business half way to their loan amount, ATB Financial will match it and fund the loan. LendRs participate on the same terms as ATB – 12% interest and monthly repayments. To be a LendR you don’t have to be an ATB customer or an accredited investor, just an Albertan who understands the great potential and energy in our entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Who can be a LendR?

Alberta Residents over the age of 18 can be a LendR. Securities rules do not allow us to accept LendRs from other provinces.

Are there limits on what I can lend?

The most you can lend to any one business on any single loan is $5,000. You also can’t have more than $10,000 lent out in aggregate.

Does ATB get repaid first?

No. All repayments are split between all the LendRs, including ATB.

What kind of businesses qualify for a lift loan?

Small businesses that have been an ATB Business customer for at least 12 months can apply for a Lift Loan. We use a unique lending model to review applications, looking at things like account history and credit scores. It is closer to a business credit card application than a bank’s commercial loan review.

 Why doesn’t ATB give them a regular loan?

In some cases the businesses may qualify for a regular loan, but may want a Lift Loan. In some cases they may not qualify for a regular loan. That could be because they aren’t established enough for regular loan criteria, or the nature of their business isn’t well suited to it.

Are there any costs for LendRs to participate?

ATB LendR is free to join. There are no fees to load funds on the platform, or make a loan, and any interest you earn is yours.  During our initial launch period if you load funds and decide not to make a loan, you’ll be able to withdraw them without charge. After our initial launch period there will be a 1% charge to take funds off the platform, to cover various transaction costs.

For more information and to sign up as a Founding LendR please visit ATB LendR SignUp

 

 

 

Six pitches. One prize. A spring day in Edmonton.

BoostR Stage YEG March 23, 2016 NAIT

Six pitches. One prize. A spring day in Edmonton.

On Wednesday night, six Albertan entrepreneur teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of expert judges in front of a crowd full of supporters. They had a mission: to convince the judges their idea had the most merit, for a chance to win a $1000 cash prize to fund their business.

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Their secondary mission was to share their story with the audience, which was full of potential future customers.

House of Sew pitched their idea of teaching people to sew and make their own clothes. Orbis Sports wants to help people get fit, play and have fun—with the help of giant bubble suits.

Biota Balance has developed yogurt for dogs, which helps provide healthy probiotics for our pets. Host Julian Faid sampled one on stage and gave the taste a review of “aggressive.”IMG_0193.JPG

Calgary Heritage Roasting Company provides the tools for Albertans to roast their own coffee. Karma Concerts is a non-profit that puts on concerts for children and raises money for children’s charities at the same time.

Fitset Pass provides one pass to lots of fitness studios, so you don’t have to buy several passes and can try many different options.

In the end, it was Calgary Heritage Roasting Company that won the judges’ favour.

Missed this event? The next BoostR Stage event will be in Calgary on April 15.

Success Story- Red Cup Distillery

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Rob DeGroot, founder and owner of Red Cup Distillery, likes to describe his new business using a question that to him, doesn’t need to be answered.

“What else would you rather be doing than making liquor?”

When DeGroot, who lives near Vegreville, first had the idea to start a distillery, he was trying to answer a similar question after leaving his last job: what would he rather be doing?

“We thought we were going to get the fancy German still and buy the Fisher-Price kit with the laptop, where they give you all the recipes. But we couldn’t afford that. Then my wife in her passing wisdom says, why don’t you build your own still? It was the smartest decision we made,” DeGroot said.

So he went to his local ATB branch and asked for help in setting up the business and financing it. His contact there put him in touch with a small business expert in the Calgary office, and she suggested he try Alberta BoostR, ATB’s rewards-based crowdfunding platform, to help with some startup financing.

“Participating in BoostR forced me to confirm my product and confirm support, and helped me to focus my marketing efforts and communication to the broader public.

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Rob DeGroot Winner of the Edmonton BoostR Stage Event

 

“It was the best thing we did. It was basically priceless because we met people and began a journey with the public. We wouldn’t have had it any other way. If I didn’t do BoostR, I’d open my doors one day and say, please come, and hope people did. This way, I pre-sold more than 200 bottles.”

DeGroot participated in a BoostR Stage event in Edmonton, where he had to present his idea to a crowd of Edmontonians and pitch his business for a chance to win $1000 from a panel of expert judges. He won.

“It was scary when I won, very scary. I thought, please, I hope my fly is up,” DeGroot said.

“The judges said, we believe this brand can be around the world, we believe this can be the next Alberta beef. That was humbling.”

DeGroot is steadfast in his resolve that Red Cup Distillery’s moonshine be Alberta grown and produced.

“We do not add chemicals, we bring in raw grain, that’s it. It’s from Vegreville, I don’t go to Scotland for this, China for that, it’s from Vegreville, literally the way grandpa did it,” DeGroot said.

“That’s what the moonshine’s like, I can’t describe it any other way. We’re making it the same way as the way grandma made bread. A little more of this, a little more of that, wait a little longer.”

Red Cup Distillery moonshine is available directly from DeGroot at his place in Vegreville, and they’re working on making it available at some local shops and restaurants. So far, Boston Pizza in Vegreville is carrying it, as well as Kitchen by Brad, a culinary school in Edmonton. But he encourages anyone who’s interested to come out for a tasting. He also recommends a couple of books, to help people understand the roots of his business better: Booze: When Whiskey Ruled the West, and Red Lights on the Prairies, both by James H. Gray.

 

Success Story- Prairie Noodle

 

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At Prairie Noodle’s first pop-up event in Edmonton, co-founder Arden Tse expected maybe 50 people to show up.

“But we sold out 100 bowls 15 minutes before we opened. And we had to turn another 70 or 80 people away.”

Prairie Noodle Shop, now open as a restaurant on 124 Street in Edmonton, serves ramen. Tse calls it fusion, because the Japanese soup recipes are made with local ingredients and based on Alberta food traditions. But, as he explains, that makes it all the more authentic.

“In Japan, wherever you go, there’s over 20 regions where they have their own specialty broth because it takes on the flavour and agriculture of wherever it comes from.

“So we decided to do something local and stay true to the spirit of what ramen is,” Tse said.

Since that first pop-up prepared Prairie Noodle’s signature dish, the prairie pork ramen, its popularity has only grown.

“People took to it. We put up our reservation system for pop ups online, on Event Brite, and they would sell out in less than five minutes. Literally, if you blinked, you missed it. I remember one customer telling me on Twitter, she said, I literally went to the bathroom, came back, and the tickets were sold out,” Tse said.

Having such great success with their pop-ups gave Tse and his partners the confidence to open a restaurant. So they started fundraising, with ATB’s help, and started a campaign on Alberta BoostR.

“BoostR gave us huge exposure, to a lot of people who weren’t online. Because the thing is, our presence to that point was kind of an underground, you had to be on social media to know about us,” Tse said.

“Just before we opened, we did a media release with the ATB team here and the Minister of Economic Development. It was an amazing opportunity. Wellington Holbrook was great, he’s been such a great supporter of ours.”

Prairie Noodle Shop opened just before Christmas.

“It’s had its challenges. But I think that’s what real entrepreneurship is about. Entrepreneurs overcome. And we have to adapt. And we have to get back up after we’ve been knocked down. Because it’ll happen time and again,” Tse said.

Ironically, one of Prairie Noodle’s biggest challenges was how popular it was before it even opened. So in its first week, attendance surpassed expectations yet again.

“We were overwhelmed. That first week we were not prepared. And so the food was inconsistent,” Tse said.

So Tse and his team took a break over Christmas and worked hard to figure things out. They made the changes necessary to get their food back to their high standards and their systems in place to deal with the high demand. And they succeeded.

“I have a saying: the only way out is through. And so far, so good. It’s been a pretty good January and we’ve got some great plans for the spring and summer. Different food menu items. We just want to come up with a new fresh experience so we’re always going to be adding things, changing things up a little bit,” Tse said.

The goal is to “provide Edmontonians with just a great new different experience, something fun, a night out, and that’s what we want to be known for, just a fun place to come,” Tse says. And so far—so good.

Dec 2 BoostR Stage YYC

6 local entrepreneurs battle it out, pitch style

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Elizabeth Anderson went first. She stood up on the stage at Calgary’s GRAND Theatre Junction and told an audience of more than 400 people how her wedding caused enough stress to trigger her struggle with schizophrenia.

Anderson shared her personal story to explain to a panel of four expert judges why her startup business, Being Mentally Healthy, would be both an economic and social success.

The judges were Wellington Holbrook, Executive Vice President, Business & Agriculture, ATB, Suzanne West, CEO of Imaginea Energy, Leor Rotchild, Consultant, and Jill Andres, Principal of Creating Value Inc.

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She and five other passionate entrepreneurs pitched their startups to the audience Wednesday night at the BoostR Stage YYC event, hoping to win $1,000 from the judges and up to $8,000 from the audience, all financed by ATB Financial. But unlike previous BoostR stage events, this one aimed to support businesses that have a social benefit.

Through Being Mentally Healthy, Anderson plans to sell adult colouring books that teach the “ABCs” of mental health—the idea being that while people colour in intricately designed letters of the alphabet, they read about mental health issues and solutions.

The audience also heard from some other health-related businesses, like Awaken Holistic, a business that aims to support alternative medicine professionals with a common space and administrative help. Mindful Mental Training pitched their idea to provide businesses and organizations with mindfulness training to help support employee mental health.

Bundles of Hope plans employ refugee mothers in making baby blankets, and YYC Tool Library talked about their tool rental service and community space. Alberta Impact Fund presented a plan to raise capital and fund small businesses that measure economic success, as well as environmental and social.

The winner of the $1,000 award from the panel of judges was Mindful Mental Training. The judges cited the strong demand for this type of service as a primary reason for their choice, but also noted the presenter’s passion and dedication to the startup. Derek Luk, the founder of the business and a registered nurse, plans to quit his University of Calgary teaching job to pursue his business full time.

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The next BoostR Stage event is scheduled for March 23 at NAIT campus in Edmonton.

 

 

 

Current Campaign – Awaken Holistic Health & Wellness

When Brian Lalonde, founder of Awaken Holistic Health & Wellness, got sick eight years ago, dozens of visits to the doctor’s office left him feeling like something was missing from his diagnosis.

“A friend turned me on to the world of complimentary and alternative medicine, and that’s when I started seeing a difference being made. Then a lightbulb went off. I thought, what else is out there?”

Lalonde spent more than 20 years in the restaurant business before deciding to switch industries, after his own experience with various types of health care and wellness options. He saw a gap in the wellness industry that he knew he could fill.

The idea behind Awaken Holistic is to give health and wellness practitioners the support they need on the business side, so they can focus on providing great service to their clients. The business will eventually house many different wellness professionals, from physiotherapists to yoga instructors and lots in between, under one big roof.

“I’ve seen hundreds of different professionals in the industry. You never know what that thing is that’s going to make the difference for you, people connect with difference things,” Lalonde said.

“I noticed these professionals were always dealing with stuff. Maybe they didn’t have enough money, were working with more clientele than they could handle, working lots of jobs to do what they love to do.”

The business model is different because it focuses on helping wellness professionals of all kinds be successful at running their own businesses and practices. So the clients at Awaken Holistic are actually the wellness practitioners, rather than the users of the future facility and services that will be available.

“My thought is, if you take care of the professionals, their ability to deliver premium service to their clients will be there. It’s the same thing on a plane: put your own mask on before anyone else’s,” Lalonde said.

The other big goal for Lalonde is to offer Calgarians many different wellness options under one roof.

“If you met someone on the street and said, are you healthy, the majority of people would say, yeah, I eat right and I exercise. When people think of health, that’s what they think of,” Lalonde said.

“But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to health, If you’re dealing with stresses in your life with work or family or health conditions, mental health is something that doesn’t get addressed very often in either western medicine or in the holistic health and wellness world. So we’re a centre that wants to support the whole body.”

Lalonde said that he’s constantly looking for different types of professionals he hasn’t engaged with yet to be part of the centre. Right now, he’s looking to engage a financial advisor, explaining that often someone’s health might be affected by money troubles.

So far, Awaken Holistic will have a music therapist, an intimacy and tantric coach, yoga and fitness classes, a kitchen with food and chefs, products in their retail space, massage therapy, reiki, bio energy, various types of energy healing, a sauna, a float pod room, and salt therapy, among other wellness professionals and experiences.

Lalonde is running a crowdfunding campaign on Alberta Boostr, hoping to raise capital to help them open the physical space for Awaken Holistic. Right now, they’re operating as an online community to get started. Contributions can be made through albertaboostr.ca.

Awaken Holistic is also hosting a gala on December 8 to raise money. More information can be found on their Facebook page or at awakenholistic.ca.

 

What excites you the most about being part of the BoostR Stage?

We asked all our participants for the BoostR Stage YYC “Change Makers” editions, what were they the most excited about  the BoostR Stage event, and this is what some of them had to say:

Calgary Tool Library

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“You can build anything with our tools, especially a community!

We can’t wait to use the BoostR stage to help our amazing community grow.”

Being Mentally Healthy

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“I am super excited to be part of AlbertaBoostr! Crowd funding is giving me the opportunity to develop my adult coloring book. To have the opportunity to have my network support this project is very inspiring and to have my Boostrs have their names in the coloring book makes it even more special. Having the opportunity to be at the live event will allow my reach to increase by people in the audience becoming aware of me and giving them the opportunity to get acquainted with my work.

Giving me a way to a develop this fun tool for  mental health and  giving  my Boostrs the unique opportunity to be part the coloring book is just awesome. The ability to give people a way to show their support for mental health issues by boosting my campaign and getting my message out to a larger audience are just some of the reasons I love Alberta Boostr.

For me, participation in Alberta Boostr is the platform and the proof that you can be recovering from a mental illness and still make a positive difference in your community!”

Mindful Mental Training Inc.

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“Being chosen to participate in the BoostR Stage will provide us the opportunity to bring awareness to the issue of mental health in our society, with the emphasis on mental health promotion and stigma reduction. But awareness alone is not enough; our vision is to share with the audience the current science and research on mindfulness-based programs, and how it is being used to reduce stress, decrease the risk of relapse to depression, prevent suicides, slow age-related cognitive decline, and lessen the suffering of other chronic medical conditions such as cancer.”

Bundles Of Hope – Socially Conscious Baby Products

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“Our team is most excited about extra publicity not only for our business, but our cause. We want to bring as much awareness as we can to the needs of low-income mothers in our city, and a chance to stand on the BoostR Stage is a chance to tell 300 or more people why we do what we do.”

The Alberta Impact Fund (AIF)

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“It’s hard to narrow down what I am MOST excited about, because I am excited about a lot! But if I had to, I am most excited about getting to tell our story. We have been working on this fund for nearly 3 years now, and it has been a journey – we have had times where absolutely everything lined up, and we have had other times where everything seemed like it was falling apart. We’re to a point now where I feel like we have been through a road of trials and come out the other side and ready to see what the next stage is. I think that getting on the Boostr stage will be an incredible catalyst for us – a moment that we can look back on to see when things really changed and became that much more real. I think the whole concept is brilliant, I am so excited that it exists, and the potential opportunity to be involved is incredibly exciting!!”