With the growth in technology usage and advancements, we are seeing a demand for entrepreneurs that are willing to forge a new path of innovation that disrupts the industry and changes the playing field. Young innovators are making an impact on how we function as a society, and improving our lives by developing innovative outside-of-the-box businesses that solve real world problems. Take Ontario entrepreneur, Ryan MacGregor for example. In 2011 he developed an idea that would change the fan experience at sporting and large-scale events with SweetSeat.
While bartending at Scotiabank Place for the Ottawa Senators games, entrepreneur, Ryan MacGregor would constantly have friends texting him food and drink orders to avoid having to wait in long lines and miss the game. As time went on, his friends that were constantly texting him orders, soon turned into his friends of friends that he didn’t even know. It was obvious there was a hole in the industry that needed to be filled, and that is where the idea for SweetSeat came to be.
SweetSeat is a mobile application that provides in-seat merchandise and concession ordering to venues. This enables fans to catch all the action at the event they are attending, and still enjoy all the food and beverages they want at the convenience of their smartphone. Once fans order their merchandise or food and beverages on the app, it will be delivered right to their seat, ensuring that they don’t miss any part of the game or event they are attending, and avoiding having to wait in long lines.
When Ryan first came up with the idea, he started researching mobile ordering and began polling fans coming through the restaurant to see if it was a viable solution. Ryan found that nobody was doing this already, and there was a noticeable demand from fans attending games and events in Ottawa. From this, SweetSeat was born.
Like many budding entrepreneurs, Ryan needed a place to start and funding to help him get his idea off the ground. While looking for potential partners or funding opportunities, he came across the Spin Master Innovation Fund which seemed like the perfect fit to not only help with financing, but also provide him with access to a wide range of networks. “We were a green company when we were starting out, so gaining valuable insight into how to run a business and what it takes to grow a business were integral pieces to our survival,” MacGregor shared. “The Spin Master element also intrigued us in the beginning given their initial growth story and their international expansion, which made us excited to understand how that could aid our development and growth moving forward.”
The Spin Master Innovation Fund provides successful entrants with up to $50k in start-up financing, mentoring with a Futurpreneur Canada mentor and an opportunity to meet Spin Master executives. Successful entrants also receive a trip to Toronto to attend a two-day Innovation Launch Pad Workshop, and another trip to Toronto to attend a two-day Accelerator Workshop.
“The Launch Pad Workshop was an intensive run through of all the different aspects of a strategically structured international business,” explained Ryan. “Meeting with the different business executives was an excellent crash course into the many different hats we were about to wear as entrepreneur.”
Ryan never gave much thought to becoming an entrepreneur so when he started SweetSeat, he truly looked for every reason not to become one. For the first four months he did a lot of research and tried to shoot as many holes into the idea as he could, but everyone surrounding Ryan and his team thought that his idea was a great one, and were jealous they hadn’t thought of it first! Even with the positive feedback, it was still a very nerve-wracking task to take on. Ryan explained the night that he decided to jump in with both feet and move forward with his big idea. “Sitting on the couch with my phone, I thought, in ten years, do I really want to be sitting at a game, placing an order from my phone via someone else’s service, and say to the guy next to me, you know I thought of this first? The answer was blatantly, no.”
In just four years, SweetSeat has seen tremendous growth. They have made use of the networking sessions they attended through the Spin Master Innovation Fund and formed valuable partnerships that have led them to exciting opportunities, and the development of over 15 jobs. “The key tool that is accessible through the Spin Master Innovation Fund is the mentoring and meetings that are held with a myriad of business minds that give each recipient insight into all of the questions they haven’t yet learned to ask,” Ryan stated. “
Interested in being a part of the next Spin Master Innovation Fund cohort? Applications are now open until June 19th, 2015. Learn more and apply here.
Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media and Content Creation Coordinator, Futurpreneur Canada