LEAP Demo Day returns after nearly three-year hiatus

Gathering at LEAP Demo Day event. CREDIT: JOHAN GEORGE
Leap Junction Business Advisor Dave Ouellette delivers his opening remarks.

On Sept. 8, Leap Junction returned with its LEAP Demo Day after 1,160 days, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The entrepreneurial pop-up market was made up from graduates of the program, ranging from jewelry, to artist distribution services, to award winning hot sauce.

The graduates came from the 2022, 2021, and 2020 LeapIN Business Accelerator program, which provided consultations, workspaces, workshops, and funding to help get student businesses off the ground. Dave Ouellette, one of the business advisors at Leap Junction, spoke on how successful the 2022 class was.

“We provided them with over 40 workshops, 300 plus hours of programming and a hundred thousand dollars in seed funding,” said Ouellette. “This is double the size of any of our previous years.”

Navigator. Londons student lifestyles magazine.

The program runs for 12 weeks during the summer, focusing on hands-on learning to try and prep future business owners for every eventuality. The program was also delivered in a hybrid format for the first time, drawing on experience from the COVID-19 lockdowns. Even the field trips the program puts on, where entrepreneurs head out of the college to make connections with other businesses in London, were tailored to an online experience.

“The idea here is to expose the cohort to the entrepreneurial support systems that exist in our region and to speak with real business owners. This helps them grow their networks and to get them thinking about other elements of their business that we might not touch upon,” Ouellette said.

After the opening ceremony, guests at Demo Day were able to browse a selection of the businesses that had graduated over the past three years. Kayla Roelans, one of the graduates and owner of Juliet & Co. Soap Boutique, spoke on her experiences with the LeapIN program.

“It was amazing,” Roelans said. “They constantly set you up for success as a business owner. One thing they did was this like, failure resume, and doing that made working on my weaknesses as a business owner easier, as I now knew what they were.”

Roelans also commented on the camaraderie formed in the group, saying how she feels she has friends who understand what owning a business can be like and are willing to help.

Mazie Love, a 2021 LeapIN graduate, artist, and owner of Pencil Cat Distribution, had just as positive an experience with the group she was with.

“They picked great people,” Love said. “That feeling of community and friendship was just immediate and it was really great to have people who understood exactly what you were doing because they were doing it too.”

Love said that despite the fast pace of the course and the density of some of the material, she never felt lost while learning the program, which she attributes to the Leap Junction team and the group she was with.

Along with the pop-up market, there were carnival games, live performers, such as tightrope walkers and fire jugglers, music hosted by 106.9 the X, a hot wing eating contest with cash prizes, and free food courtesy of Smoke’s Poutinerie and Harvey’s.