Getting a DeskUP on the Competition

By: Hailey Trealout

DeskUP - shallyirekdeb grad photoImagine being an entrepreneur fresh out of school, wanting to change the world with a simple business idea, but not knowing where to start.

For two years WEtech Alliance and the Downtown Windsor Business Accelerator have helped prepare recent grads and young entrepreneurs with necessary tools and skills to successfully launch their businesses using a program called DeskUP.

Chris Anderson is the CEO of Astral Social, a marketing and advertising firm serving clients in Canada and the United States. He started in the DeskUP program in September 2012 and says the program helped him get access to mentors and business networks, which helped him start another company.
“Prior to DeskUP, I had started three businesses; a painting company, a lawn care company and an internet media outlet,” said Anderson. “Coming out of DeskUP, I am much more aware of the skills I need to work on, how to manage PR, and the opportunities for funding and growth that exist in Ontario. I also have grown Astral Social into a stronger business, and founded a second company Easify, which will be releasing its iPhone app this fall.
DeskUP provides post-secondary graduates with subsidized office space, mentoring and access to entrepreneurial workshops in addition to networking opportunities.
Shally Lakshminarayan is the founder of Enlighten Counselling Services. She helps individuals who struggle with depression, anxiety and stress management. Prior to starting her business in February 2012, Lakshminarayan moved into the Accelerator where she joined DeskUP.
“The rent here at the Accelerator is affordable but to have an additional subsidy has been great,” said Lakshminarayan. “I also like the fact that everyone else in the program is around the same age and we’re all kind of in the same place. Everybody is just starting up, and they’ve just finished school. Everyone is in the same boat.”
DeskUP was established with a generous grant form the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Dr. Irek Kusmierczyk, who oversees the program, says DeskUP is a great way to give the downtown area the chance to recharge and to promote local business opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurs make their opportunities happen rather than wait for them to fall from the sky,” said Dr. Kusmierczyk. “Shally is a true entrepreneur who really embraced the DeskUp program and the business incubator, sharing her skills with other start-ups around her while not being shy about reaching out for resources and support.”
Lakshminarayan also said she thinks one of the most important parts of the program is the mentorship.
“My WEtech mentor, Deborah Livneh, and I meet regularly to go over different challenges I have,” said Lakshminarayan. “Stuff like networking, she’s linked me with some people that I can make some connections with. I also run ideas through her and she gives me feedback. It’s always good to have someone outside of your company giving you some advice”
For more information on DeskUp contact Dr. Irek Kusmierczyk at ikusmierczyk@wetech-alliance.com or visit WEtech`s website at https://www.wetech-alliance.com/.