With physical distancing becoming the “new normal” imposed on society to stop the spread of COVID-19, many entrepreneurs, startups and small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have found themselves evaluating and adjusting their business model to adapt to the ever-evolving situation. The Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) team is responding by adjusting and expanding the delivery of its programs and services.

“QPI has traditionally served entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs through in-person meetings, programs, workshops and networking events and access to physical facilities,” says Janice Mady, Director of Research and Innovation Partnerships. “To continue supporting our clients, especially in these unprecedented times, our team has quickly converted the delivery format of our programs and services, including coaching from mentors, numerous workshops, and two new accelerator programs, from in-person to on-line. We have also increased the resources available to our clients, including the addition of many new workshops and webinars, and the development of a COVID-19 resource repository, which we regularly update with news and information that is important and relevant to entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs in Kingston and region.”

The Growth Accelerator is a three-month pilot program, designed by QPI and Stiletto, that launched on March 24th. This Accelerator is providing support to seven companies poised for growth and 14 founders/entrepreneurs. The program is helping these entrepreneurs to accelerate their business by fine-tuning their value offering, filling various gaps, and building robust growth strategies to achieve growth targets.

“The entrepreneurs enthusiastically participated in the program despite it being delivered virtually,” says Ariella Lukach, Vice President, Strategy & Positioning at Stiletto. “In the evaluation forms for the initial two sessions, participants indicated they have already received tremendous value.”

The Compass North Accelerator is a five-month program, designed by QPI and L-SPARK, that launches on April 20th. This Accelerator will provide expert mentorship to 10 women entrepreneurs who are leading tech companies in the region. Companies will pitch virtually on April 15th for the opportunity to be mentored and participate in the program.

The supply and demand for training is strong, with many entrepreneurs using this time to educate themselves on a variety of topics, from marketing and sales to refining business pitches to learning how to create their own online content.

“Entrepreneurs are isolated at the best of times, but in this time of extreme measures, I think there’s more of a demand for connection than ever. Through our online social platforms, our virtual workshops and Zoom meetings, I believe we are delivering an important service which is to keep people feeling connected and moving forward during this time of social distancing,” says Kerry Ramsay, Project Manager of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy.

The Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation team also continues to provide Queen’s researchers with partnership and proposal development support, intellectual property guidance, legal counsel and leadership in negotiating or amending research agreements. “The university appreciates that the fluidity of the current situation makes for significant difficulties in planning research and innovation activities,” says Jim Banting, Assistant Vice-Principal of Partnerships and Innovation. “We encourage our clients/researchers to contact us to discuss any concerns and for support in continuing to advance their research and knowledge mobilization objectives”. For the most up to date information regarding researchers and research activities, please visit the Office of the Vice-Principal’s (Research) website.

For up-to-date information regarding Queen’s University’s response to COVID-19, please visit the Queen’s COVID-19 website.

Stiletto’s take on pivoting program delivery to virtual: As a national firm with employees, associates, and clients across Canada and the US, Stiletto is well versed in running virtual meetings. Here are some things that help going virtual happen successfully:

  1. Be open and direct: acknowledge that it is easy to get distracted when in front of the screen, and that interruptions might occur. Request that the participants make a sincere effort to be present and communicate to the facilitator if a break is needed.
  2. Request that the video is on if possible: being on camera allows participants to better connect with the facilitator and with each other, as well as increase accountability and focus.
  3. Phone calls during breaks: the accelerator is a “hands on, roll up your sleeves” type of program. The session included several breaks where participants were working individually. Facilitators called each participant during the working break to offer guidance and support.
  4. Keep the same activities: for example, we like to group answers on a whiteboard as participants deliver them to us when doing in-person sessions. We had done the same thing virtually, only using a Word document shared on the screen.

About Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation

Queen's University’s Partnerships and Innovation supports the Research Portfolio’s mission to be an essential catalyst for advancing research and knowledge mobilization, strengthening Queen’s local, national and global impact. The QPI team develops and facilitates partnerships with industry, governments, not-for-profit organizations, and other academic institutions to advance the research enterprise at Queen’s and the commercialization of inventions, and to strengthen the regional innovation ecosystem in Kingston and Eastern Ontario. With support from external funding, the QPI team offers numerous services, resources and programs to support entrepreneurs, including those from Queen’s, and to accelerate the growth of startups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within Kingston and Eastern Ontario.

About Stiletto

Stiletto is a market intelligence and strategic planning firm, specializing in focus and positioning and high-impact projects for communities and companies in Canada and the United States. We are skilled at simplifying technically charged industries and merging traditional industries with the new economy. We develop disruptive, results-driven, outcome-based strategies that help position clients for sustainable and viable activities


The L-SPARK Accelerator is designed to ensure startups have the right fundamentals and talent to scale. Dedicated mentors work with entrepreneurs to think big and drive business plans that fuel the successful execution of their vision. To date, L-SPARK has accelerated 51 companies who have collectively raised over $45M in follow-on funding.

Article tags