Quebec’s Prêt à Entreprendre Program Announces Second Cohort of Young Entrepreneurs

The Quebec-based, provincially funded Prêt à entreprendre support program has unveiled its second cohort of entrepreneurs.

Quebec entrepreneurs from three startups were selected in Érica Bianchini and Yoan Gehant-Vidoni of award-winning Montreal jeweler Ecksand, Flavie Tremblay and Simon Tremblay of Montreal-based mobile media studios Zandel Media, and Mélissa Harvey and Richard Morin of Zorah Biocosmétiques Inc., a Montreal-based organic and eco-friendly cosmetic products company.

Prêt à entreprendre (or “ready to start”) is an incubator-support program for local entrepreneurs and businesses that “aims to encourage the growth and longevity of young businesses.” The program offers an unsecured, interest-free loan of up to $30,000 for each entrepreneur, coaching and expert advice by mentors and access to extensive networks.

The chosen companies seem to be deserving Montreal-based startups, particularly Zorah, with its fair trade and eco-friendly approach to ecommerce for Canadian-produced cosmetics products. However I’m not sure why Prêt à entreprendre chose a diamond boutique to give $30,000 to, rather than a starving startup building a great tool for the web.

Nevertheless, Ecksand is the first brand to specialize in modern natural coloured diamond jewels in Canada. The company’s founders and designers’ “talent of joining complexity and luxury has earned them various awards.” It’s rings and wedding bands range in price from under $1,000 to over $8,000.

Zandel offers its technology as a service for producers and directors who wish to add interactive features to traditional products, including advertising, television shows and series. Their technology allows them to build large-scale video games, visual effects and post-production.

The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal’s Michael Leblanc said the entrepreneurs distinguished themselves though their entrepreneurial spirit and the innovative nature of their projects in niche markets.

“There are several current initiatives to encourage the development of entrepreneurship and facilitate the creation and growth of new businesses. Support for the entrepreneurial new guard has proven its worth, as we have seen several successful outcomes following a period of guidance and the sharing of expertise, as is the case in the Prêt à entreprendre program,” said Leblanc. “I would like to encourage young entrepreneurs in the Montréal region to take advantage of the support services Info entrepreneurs has to offer to help make their business ideas a reality.”

Prêt à entreprendre is a unique program for Canadian standards, and is also a great opportunity for Montreal and Laval-based entrepreneurs to take advantage of. There are few other initiatives in the country that offer the financial perks of this program, and thus I would imagine many entrepreneurs actively seek out admission. It was implemented by the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ), and the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal.

The program is supported by the Ministère des Finances et de l’Économie, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Desjardins Group, the FCCQ, the Fondation de l’entrepreneurship (FDE), and Québecor Media.

Financially speaking, Prêt à entreprendre’s budget of $7 million is funded by three of the project’s partners: the Government of Québec ($4 million), Desjardins Group ($2 million), and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec ($1 million).

At the end of the program’s five-year period, up to 300 of the most promising entrepreneurs of all ages and from all regions of Québec will have benefited from funding and high-level guidance offered by a team of volunteer mentors.

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