The City of Vaughan’s Vaughan Business & Entrepreneurship Centre (VBEC), part of the City of Vaughan’s Economic Development Department. VBEC partners with York University’s YSpace to offer programming for food and beverage entrepreneurs through the Launch and Grow Your Food Venture program series. This program is part of a multi-year economic development program, that fosters economic growth and job creation. Over the past 3 years, the program has engaged more than 340 participants. The Launch and Grow Your Food Venture program nurtures and supports emerging small businesses to develop their ideas, products, and/or services into viable, competitive businesses. This program series provides access to experts, networks, and mentors.
YSpace is York University’s innovation hub creating positive change by fostering a community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and changemakers. This partnership offers specialized workshops to support early-stage food and beverage entrepreneurs and to help grow this industry locally. This programming builds on the success of VBEC’s partnership since 2020 with the YSpace Food Accelerator Program, a first-of-its-kind program in Ontario supported by York Region.
VBEC has worked with entrepreneurs and business owners who continue to play a meaningful role in Vaughan’s transformational journey. VBEC has provided resources to businesses, including advisory consultations, training, webinars, networking opportunities, and more.
The target audience and those who benefit from this program include entrepreneurs from the ideation, early and growth-stages of business. Participants are from throughout York Region, Toronto, and the Greater Toronto Area. Types of businesses include consumer packaged goods (CPG), food-related services, manufacturing & logistics, and food establishments, among others.
Participants in this program benefit from receiving complementary, training and education to gain the skills needed to start, grow, or launch a food & beverage businesses. Subject matter experts and presenters are experienced in this industry and have hands-on entrepreneurial experience starting and/operating successful food & beverage businesses. The open-style forum delivery allows for free-flowing question & answer (Q&A) that pertains to the specific business needs of participants.
One challenge we encountered in planning this program is determining the best format for delivery of the content. In a post-pandemic environment, virtual delivery is expected, although there may be an interest in returning to in-person delivery of content. This balance is challenging particularly for entrepreneurs operating brick-and-mortar businesses who may find it difficult to leave their physical locations to attend a workshop or webinar. The decision was made that virtual delivery presented a baseline offering to participants.
This program impacts and furthers economic development in Vaughan by measuring businesses started in our community along with job creation and growth within this sector. Vaughan is home to a thriving food and beverage industry and is located in one of the largest and most competitive food and beverage clusters in North America with nearly 600 companies employing more than 25,000 people across the food and beverage supply chain in Vaughan.