Apex founder Pat McNamara pays it forward
October 22, 2013 | Rebecca Harris | Comments
Pat McNamara’s new venture will give aspiring entrepreneurs a leg up.
The founder and CEO of Apex Public Relations launched Ignite Capital, which will give $25,000 of McNamara’s own money to two Canadian entrepreneurs. Applicants will have the change to compete for a $20,000 grant, with the runner-up receiving $5,000.
“If you talk to anyone who is entrepreneur, the one thing you’ll hear is somebody helped them, mentored them or gave them money,” said McNamara, who stepped back from the day-to-day operations of Apex four years ago to focus on other projects, including philanthropic endeavors. “I felt I had a lot of help over the years and I wanted to help other entrepreneurs succeed.”
Over the past two years, McNamara researched micro-financing models, but ultimately decided that wasn’t the way to go. “Operationally, it is costly and complicated and it would take a significant amount of money to start it up,” said McNamara. “That’s when I stepped back and said, ‘if I have to put that much money in operations, why don’t I look at simplifying, and instead of putting the money in operations, put it towards giving people grants.’”
Applicants can fill out a simple form at IgniteCapital.ca. Qualified applicants will receive a full application package (due Nov. 8 ) and the Ignite Capital committee will short list five applicants. Those finalists will participate in a “Pitch-Off Competition” in front of a panel of judges on Nov. 28.
The program will be managed by Business in the Streets, which helps at-risk youth succeed at business. The organization will provide administrative support and help McNamara review the business plans.
Judges will be looking for candidates to “showcase their great idea, business expertise and passion to succeed,” according to the website. They will also need to demonstrate that they do not have access to traditional capital such as bank loans, lines of credit or family funding.
McNamara will not be one of the judges, as the program uses her personal money and she doesn’t want to influence the decision. She also won’t become an investor in the winning company – it is strictly a grant. “I just felt it would be nice to give somebody a real jumpstart,” said McNamara. “You have all these worries in your first year of business… this might take away a little bit of the worry and just get them going.”
The grants will be awarded yearly and McNamara hopes to expand the program in the future. That could mean moving into a loan program, getting corporate sponsors or expanding into different categories, such as social innovation or a grant for immigrant women.
Having her own public relations firm will be helpful to promote the winners, said McNamara. “There will be a shortlist of five, so we’ll talk about them and promote them on the website,” she said. “So even if you don’t win, hopefully you will get some profile.”