Business models from MaRS

St. Paul's GreenHouseThis summer, St. Paul’s GreenHouse is partnering with the MaRS Discovery District, Canada’s largest innovation centre based out of Toronto, to offer entrepreneurial workshops at the College. MaRS works with both the public and private sectors to assist entrepreneurs in launching and growing their businesses.

Chris at a whiteboardThe workshop on Thursday, June 4 was headed by Chris Giantsopoulos (right), an educational and entrepreneurial consultant who has designed and implemented training programs for employees of the Bank of Montreal and has overseen the work of project managers and teams on projects with multi-million dollar budgets. This workshop focused on the challenges of designing a comprehensive business model, and took participants through the following models:

Business Model Canvas

This is a template for strategically managing the elements of a business by visually laying out its key elements, specifically: Revenue streams, customer relationship, customer segments, channels, value proposition, key activities, key resources, key partners, and cost structure.

The job of a business model is to communicate the value a business offers to its customers and to outline the resources required to market and deliver the value in a sustainable and profitable way.

PEST Analysis

A PEST (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) Analysis helps businesses to outline the factors that can affect the supply and demand of a particular industry. During the session, each factor was examined in detail via “trigger questions.” When looking at political factors, for example, questions concerning regulatory bodies, government policies, as well as regional wars and conflicts were all raised.

Porter’s Five Forces

This model is based on the idea that in any given industry, profitability is determined by five forces. If these forces are strong, it is harder to attain a competitive advantage. If they are weak, it will be easy for new entrants to outperform industry competitors and carve out a market share for themselves. These forces are:

  1. The threat of new entrants
  2. The bargaining power of buyers
  3. The threat of substitute products or services
  4. The bargaining power of suppliers
  5. The intensity of competitive rivalry

SWOT Analysis

Workshop participants in the ChapelThe SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis is used to assess the operations of both a company and its competitors. It identifies its internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats.

Benny Hua, current GreenHouse innovator and founder of Node, a company designing compression sleeves for sufferers of lymphedema, said, “The business model is something everyone talks about, but going into business without one is like going into business with blinders on.”

GreenHouse alumna Mavis Chan, founder of Whyvote, a peer-to-peer platform designed to encourage voting among young adults, said the workshop was ultimately a lesson in “how to validate your business model before you crash and burn.”

Overall, the workshop allowed participants to re-evaluate their value proposition and to find ways of validating the assumptions they have made about their business models. MaRS workshops will be held throughout the summer and will feature various lecturers. See the schedule for upcoming workshops.


Listen to Kwame Ansong's podcast with Chris Giantsopoulos and Elle Crevits

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