Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

WE-CAN Project helped CR Fixture Design identify a new opportunity and direction for growth 

Rahel Levesque is the co-owner of CR Fixture Design, a participant in Compass North and the SPARK Marketing Program, and a recipient of mentorship from Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI), resources made available to women entrepreneurs via the WE-CAN Project at Queen’s University, which receives support from the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund through FedDev Ontario.

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Rahel Levesque was not sure how her company, CR Fixture Design, was going to fare. CR Fixture Design is an outsource design solution for the fixture and gauge industry, providing shops with high-quality designs and helping them to keep up with demand.

“Being self-employed it was certainly scary at times,” says Rahel, who co-owns the company with her business partner and husband, Chris. “We were able to keep a steady workflow and even landed a big new customer.”

Rahel Levesque, co-owner of CR Fixture Design

On top of that, Rahel enrolled in the Compass North program, a Kingston-based accelerator program led by Queen's University Partnerships & Innovation (QPI) and L-SPARK for women entrepreneurs leading and operating a technology-based business in the Belleville-Kingston-Brockville region.

The five-month accelerator program is delivered as part of the WE-CAN Project led by Queen's University and supported by the Government of Canada through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund.

What Rahel didn’t know going into the program was that the Compass North journey would pair her with Judith Pineault, a mentor that would change the trajectory of her business plans and see a whole new venture take shape.

“Judith's mentorship has helped us tremendously. Upon further examination of our business plan, we found some pretty major flaws,” says Rahel.

This examination of their business plan led Rahel and Chris to brainstorm some other ideas around their business and they developed the idea to build a platform that was geared only towards freelance CAD designers and the industries they serve. This new business plan eliminated some of the major issues CR Fixture Design had with their current business model and had the potential to help thousands of freelance designers connect with industry professionals.

“Becoming a member of the Compass North cohort meant we were constantly working on our new business idea and trying to strategize for the future.” As Rahel continued through the Compass North acceleration program, Judith was there as a mentor to provide guidance and support without pushing Rahel in a specific direction.

Once the program wrapped up, Judith continued to provide mentorship to Rahel via her QPI role as Mentor to women entrepreneurs. This continuity was valuable in supporting CR Fixture Design and in developing their new business strategy. To ensure that the business strategy was viable, QPI facilitated resources through SPARK, a Marketing Communications student enterprise with St. Lawrence College. SPARK assisted Rahel in developing an extensive survey to validate her business assumptions, through research with potential new clients and freelancers.  Once this data has been collected, the analysis will be used to develop the new business brand, which will drive business development and freelancer acquisition.

“Once we came up with the idea to build a platform that connects industry professionals with experienced CAD designers, QPI suggested that we approach the Centre for Advanced Computing (CAC) for assistance,” says Rahel. The CAC is a high-security, high-availability, data centre that provides advanced computing, storage, development, and data analytics services to a local, provincial, and federal research eco-system. CAC expertise was the push in the right direction that Rahel and Chris needed and didn’t know the resource was available to them. “We virtually met with Paige and Fernando from the CAC in the summer of 2020, to determine if our project was a good fit for the program.”

Through a series of exploratory meetings with Paige Beddoe, Research Engagement Manager and Fernando Hernandez Leiva, Analytics Developer, the concept of developing a platform started to look more and more viable. The meetings between CR Fixture Design and CAC went well with CAC agreeing to provide expert analytics services to design the platform. Before the build can begin, CR Fixture Design needs to complete the market validation to ensure that their idea has legs.

“Once we receive some data that suggests this platform is something that people are interested in using, which we highly suspect is the case, we will move forward with building this platform,” says Rahel.

If all goes according to plan, CAC will start developing the platform in early 2021, and it will be ready to launch in the summer of 2021.

“Without the Compass North program, we might not have come up with this idea for the platform and without QPI providing Judith’s mentorship, we may not have found the resources needed to see it to fruition,” says Rahel. “Even though Judith and I have been working together for over six months, we have never actually met in person. It seems crazy sometimes to think we have been on such a journey together, without having ever met face-to-face!”

While Rahel says the idea of running CR Fixture Design and launching a spin-off company can be overwhelming at times, they are motivated to bring their vision to life.

“We are excited to see what the future holds!” she adds.

 

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