Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation’s program taught one entrepreneur the value of delegation and teamwork

When Shawn Leclaire first heard about the Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation's Growth Accelerator program, he wasn’t sure he could fit it in to his already jam-packed schedule. Today, having since finished the three-month long program, he says, “The time spent up front ultimately pays off. It is a fantastic return on investment – it not only helps you grow your business but do it faster and smarter.”

Leclaire’s own voyage to the Accelerator was a lengthy one, a series of small steps he took to open up opportunities or solve business problems. He was working as a software engineer in a lab at Queen’s University in the 2000s when he thought he might try dabbling in real estate. He bought a few properties and when friends started asking him to manage for them as well, he created NomadHomes. “We went from managing about 12 properties to looking after more than 100.”

He soon found, however, that collecting rents, creating lease agreements, advertising, issuing notices and all the other minutiae of the property manager’s life, was a “paperwork nightmare.” There were tools out there meant to help small landlords do this. But while these American-developed software programs “do good record keeping, they didn’t know our provincial legislation or our federal tax laws.” Leclaire got to work on his computer.

By 2019 RentalGauge.ca, his cloud platform, was in use by small landlords across the province. “We were in a dozen cities,” he says. But to be truly successful, “we have to scale up to tens of thousands of properties across Canada.” The question was how. In January 2020, someone who knew him and his product suggested the Accelerator.

He may have been unsure what exactly he was getting into, especially while, “trying to hang on while everything went sideways” for NomadHomes as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. But he says, “It was probably the best business training I have come across.”

In common with most entrepreneurs, Leclaire says, he prefers to do things on his own. It is, he jokes, “a bit like single child syndrome.”

What the Accelerator taught him is “that there are structures out there that people have figured out. You don’t have to do everything from scratch. For instance, they provided the tools for everything from business plans, to staffing structures, to raising capital. And they really impressed upon us the importance of writing your plans down, even if it’s in point form,” he says.

“The team from Stiletto [who designed and ran the course] were great, unbelievably professional and insightful. They’re still checking in on us.”

For a classic “single child-style” entrepreneur working together with the other participants was a revelation. “There was a real sense of community. We developed an appreciation of the challenges we were facing, and there was lots of cross-company advice.” It helped, he says, “to create a greater sense of a local business community.”

“The program was definitely remarkable and not a moment was wasted doing it.”

 

The Wings/Growth Acceleration program was made possible with support from the Government of Canada to Queen’s University through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and the Scale-up Platform Project which is led by Invest Ottawa in eastern Ontario and by Queen’s in the Kingston region.

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