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

 

 

 

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.

 

BoostR Success Story – Shaunio Radio

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Priscilla Cherry owns online radio station Shaunio Radio. When Priscilla first inherited the station, she decided to dedicate it to independent artists, in order to honour one of her family members who had passed away. She saw it as an opportunity to share his music around the world, and to share the music of other independent artists.
So she decided to use the Alberta BoostR platform to crowdfund and re-launch the station. And she knew marketing would be key to running a successful crowdfunding campaign: she created videos for social media, cold-called strangers, you name it. And it worked! Here are her thoughts on how her marketing efforts made the difference.

Q: What different marketing channels did you use?
Priscilla: Obviously social media, because in our information age, it’s huge. At the beginning, I was really consistent in keeping people updated and engaged, and posted almost every day. But for me, I know people get bored fast and they like to be entertained. So besides social media and the videos, I thought, well, let me go back to traditional marketing. And I actually went business to business and was telling them about my campaign. So, like actually going door to door saying, ‘hi, nice to meet you!’ kind of thing. And actually cold calling as well. So I took it back a couple years and added some traditional marketing.

Q: Did you find that cold calling people was a successful strategy? Were people interested?
Priscilla: A little bit. You call people out of the blue and you give your little pitch, but they have no idea who you are. So they’re like, ‘what does this girl want?’ So I did that first, and then people would say ‘oh, I’ll get back to you’ or, ‘oh, send me an e-mail.’ If anything, I’d get a share of my video, a post, a retweet or something, but not necessarily any contributions. So that’s when I was like, for my personality, I have to be talking to people face to face, person to person. And that ended up being perfect, I got contributions when I went door to door.
Q: I was actually wondering how that went after seeing your video! (To see Priscilla’s video on door to door marketing, click here)
Priscilla: Yeah, it was interesting. Some people…you just don’t know what to expect. And honestly, some people, how I re-enacted it was not even an exaggeration. Literally people are just like, ‘no not interested,’ and I hadn’t even said anything yet! But other people, who are entrepreneurs themselves, they respect the hustle kind of thing, so they support right back, which is really nice. It’s hit or miss, definitely.

Q: What kind of marketing advice would you have for someone who’s just trying to start a campaign?
Priscilla: Honestly, I would just suggest completely stepping outside of the box. If it feels uncomfortable, then do it, because you never know what kind of results you’re going to get. Like door to door marketing. Just try different things outside of your box. Like I said, I never did that before, but I tried it, and it worked! So you never know what kind of results you’re going to get.

BoostR Question: Would you rather be a dragon, or own a dragon?
Priscilla: I think I’d rather be a dragon? Is this a trick question? Because dragons are cool, I want to blow fire out of my mouth, that’s pretty cool. And not scare people, but a dragon is a fierce thing. And if I am a dragon then I own myself, so there you go!

BoostR Success Story – FREDsense

FREDsense Technologies lands coveted spot at Silicon Valley startup accelerator

A startup in Calgary is making waves—by testing waves.

FREDsense Technologies is a new Alberta-based business that engineers organisms to test water quality. The founders came up with a “bio-sensor” technology to engineer bacteria and put them in containers, much like USB sticks, which can be submerged into water to test for a wide variety of contaminants.

This technology will be useful for the oil and gas industry, as well as the agriculture industry. Its founders are all students or recent alumni of the University of Calgary.

Because this new technology has the potential to have a big impact, FREDsense was one of seven startups selected from a pool of 400 applicants from around the world to participate in an accelerator program for new businesses in Mountain View, California.

Co-founders David Lloyd, Chief Operating Officer, and Emily Hicks, CEO, are at Singularity University, which runs this program specifically for startups coming up with disruptive technology to solve big world problems.

“It’s pretty fantastic. I’m still realizing that we’re here, this is happening, right in the heart of Silicon Valley,” Lloyd said.

“We’re suffering from huge impostor syndrome. Looking around seeing the talent and huge ideas in other teams is unreal. We’re also the only Canadians here, and Emily is the only woman here.”

Lloyd and Hicks participated in ATB’s Alberta BoostR program, a rewards-based crowdfunding platform, to help raise some money for their startup. After they did this, they realized they needed to accelerate even more. That’s where the program they’re now participating in came in.

“It’s a 10 week experience, you get $100,000 for your company, and every week we’re learning rapidly how to run our business better. We’re being introduced to potential customers and investors. It’s been an awesome experience,” Lloyd said.

Alberta BoostR was important for Lloyd and Hicks because they needed a way to fund prototypes of their product. They needed to show potential customers and investors that their technology really works, and Alberta BoostR helped to provide them with some funding to do that.

“When I heard about Alberta BoostR, I thought it was an incredibly cool way we could have impact and get people involved in what we’re doing at the same time. We decided to give it a go, even though in some ways, we’re really not the ideal fit when it came to rewards-based crowd funding,” Lloyd said.

“It’s one of the big reasons we’re here today in California and having this opportunity.”

Since Alberta BoostR is a rewards-based crowdfunding initiative, Lloyd and Hicks had to come up with, well, rewards. They ended up giving out water bottles, Lloyd said, since it fit the theme of “testing what’s in your water.” They also gave out t-shirts and hoodies. Finally, they gave away experiences. First, the put on a biology art day, where kids painted pictures with bacteria that glowed in the dark. Then they hosted a “be a synthetic biologist for a day” experience.

Once they’re back in Alberta, Lloyd and Hicks plan to really get the business up and running by getting their products to market.

“And we want to do that in Alberta. We believe in the province and the people and the amazing talents we have, and that we can make an impact from there on the rest of the world,” Lloyd said.

The company’s first product, FRED (Field-Ready Electrochemical Detector), uses a genetically modified bacteria to detect multiple water-borne contaminants in two simple steps. A cartridge holding the ‘sensing’ bacteria and chemicals needed to run the test is placed in a detector with the water being tested. After one to two minutes the detector sends the results via Wi-Fi, 3G, or USB connection, to your device.

Video Source: http://singularityhub.com/2015/10/02/taking-flight-meet-the-startups-of-the-2015-inaugural-su-labs-accelerator/

BoostR Success Story – Vin Gogh Paint and Sip Studio

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Brenda Mahoney of Vin Gogh Paint and Sip Studio recently launched a successful crowdfunding campaign using Alberta BoostR, and her rewards really set her apart. Vin Gogh provides an experience that combines three of life’s greatest passions: art, wine and food. She used her ability to offer these experiences in a customized way to attract different types of potential contributors to her campaign. Here are some of her ideas on how to create rewards that work:

  1. Choose rewards that relate to your business

Not every business has a cut and dry product that they can offer to supporters as a reward. But this doesn’t mean they should stray outside of their industry for rewards. It can be confusing for supporters when the rewards don’t match what the business does. Part of the reason to do a crowdfunding campaign is to make people aware of who you are and what you do. So offering rewards that don’t relate to your business at all can end up detracting from the brand image you want to communicate. If you do want to include rewards from outside your industry, try including them as a bonus. For example, Vin Gogh could offer a paint session with a box of chocolates to vamp up the reward. But offering only a box of chocolates wouldn’t make any sense.

  1. Think of rewards as a great marketing opportunity

Each person who shows interest in contributing to your business through a crowdfunding campaign is a potential customer, which is why tying rewards to your products and services is so important. Moreover, every aspect of your crowdfunding campaign – from your video and images to the tone and voice of your written text – is a great opportunity for people to experience your brand. Use the lingo you use within your business, showcase the goods or services you provide, and create experiences surrounding your business. Each reward purchased is an opportunity to get someone through the doors of your business and turn them into a returning customer or at the very least, a brand advocate who will spread the word to their networks about your business.

  1. Don’t be afraid to change the amount of each reward available

Some rewards end up being really popular, while others end up not being popular at all. It’s sometimes hard to predict this, so changing the numbers of each reward available throughout isn’t a bad strategy. This also helps keep certain reward levels alive. If you only have large reward levels left available, someone looking to contribute a smaller amount may no longer chose to contribute. Being responsive to what rewards the crowd likes/doesn’t like is key to success in crowdfunding. You want to offer engaging rewards and introducing new rewards is a great way to add more excitement around your campaign.

Setting rewards for a crowdfunding campaign can be tricky. Picking the right reward for each contribution level takes time and thought to make sure you’re providing a reward that your supporters want to be a part of. When you design your crowdfunding campaign rewards, ask yourself this: would people want to go out of their way to buy this reward? Is it enticing enough for them to open up their wallet and purchase it now?

Passionate pitches: BoostR Stage comes to YEG

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Excerpt: Small business owners delivered their pitches to a crowd, hoping to win the judges favour (and $1,000).

Adventure buses. Pantomime theatre. Ramen noodles. Moonshine. Wellness treatments. Under what magical roof might all these disparate ideas come together?

Under the roof of the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, as a matter of fact, for the very first BoostR Stage YEG event, on Tuesday, September 15. It was put on by Alberta BoostR, ATB’s rewards-based crowdfunding platform.

BoostR Stage is an event where small business owners and entrepreneurs from Alberta can pitch their business plans to an expert panel of judges, as well as a captive audience of engaged community members. The judges hear short, timed pitches, ask some questions, and ultimately choose one business to “boost” with capital. A $1,000 prize goes to help the winning business expand.

But even better, audience members are equipped with voting rights too, in the form of dollars. Audience members are given credits to award their favourite pitch through albertaboostr.ca, good for that evening only.

On Tuesday night, five businesses took the stage: Gateway Wellness Center, Adventure Bus, Wyvern Players, Red Cup Distillery, and Prairie Noodle Shop. Each pitch was unique, reflecting the personality and passion of the business owners.

But the pitches did carry a common theme: they all contained ideas to make our collective community better. Whether it was through offering a cold glass of moonshine or suggesting an outing with your kids to see live, interactive theatre, all the business owners at Tuesday night’s event pitched Alberta-focused innovations.

In the end, the winner of the $1,000 boost from the judges was Red Cup Distillery, rewarded for a passionate and authentic pitch highlighting a compelling business model.

The next BoostR Stage pitch event will be in Calgary on September 30. For more information on that event, to learn more about these businesses, and to boost an Alberta business yourself, visit albertaboostr.ca.