News and Events

Student entrepreneurs receive start-up funding

May 2, 2012

Three student entrepreneurs received a total of $16,700 in start-up funding and promises of valuable mentorship today to assist in the set-up of their new businesses.

Medicine Hat College announced a five-year partnership with local accounting and business services firm JMH & Co. worth $250,000 in 2011, and awarded the first entrepreneurs last spring. Today’s winners include:

Elevation Landscaping and Irrigation: Anthony Merkel and Larson Laing
Merkel and Laing received the maximum award of $10,000 plus mentorship opportunities.

Shambhala Hoods: Liz Sanderson
Sanderson received $5000 plus mentorship opportunities.

Healing Hands Massage Therapy: Sybil Mahoney
Mahoney received $1700 plus mentorship opportunities.

Deanna Haysom, development officer at MHC, said the awards go a long way for young people starting businesses.

“We’re giving them access to capital,” she said. “And equally important to this project is the mentorship opportunities these entrepreneurs receive. JMH & Co. is committed to both helping these students financially and by sharing their valuable expertise.”

Anthony Merkel of Elevation Landscaping was quick to point out the value of mentorship when trying to grow a business.

“We appreciate all the help we have received. It has been invaluable to work with people like Ryan Dorton (JMH & Co.), Jon Sookocheff (MHC), and Ryan Jackson,” said the first-year business student.

Merkel and his partner, Larson Laing, offer a wide range of landscaping services but said they specialize in “customer service.”

“We meet with the homeowners or business and help drive our clientele to what they want, not what we want,” he said. “After all, it is their home or business. We take photographs of the property and use 3-D imaging to show the client what their vision will look like.” 

Merkel and Laing will have a busy summer with several clients already booked and are offering free quotes as they look to expand their business. The funds from JMH & Co. will assist with the growth, Merkel said.

“We will use the grant to buy more equipment, general start-up costs and incorporation,” he said.

JMH & Co. partners and staff from Medicine Hat and Brooks offices attended today’s event to congratulate the entrepreneurs. Ryan Dorton, a partner at JMH & Co. and one of the coordinators of the partnership, said the young entrepreneurs are not the only ones benefitting from the awards.

“We had three recipients in 2011 and we’ve had three partners working with them over the course of the last year,” he said. “It’s inspirational to work with young entrepreneurs, and it’s a great learning experience for us to work with people just entering the business world.”

One of the entrepreneurs still benefitting from the 2011 awards is Kristan Votta, a partner in Sugar Strings Swimwear. Votta is graduating from MHC this spring with a degree in social sciences from Athabasca University.

“The JMH & Co. award enabled us to add production to our company,” she said. “Prior to that, we were making every suit by ourselves.”

Votta and her partner, Angelica Bonaparte, just released their second swimwear collection. They have recently been approached by a national fashion magazine and have been hitting Alberta fashion shows. Votta also noted the difference mentorship has made in the last year of business operations.

“The mentorship this grant provided was perhaps the biggest help,” she said.

The five-year gift from JMH & Co. also includes scholarship assistance. For more information on entrepreneur scholarships and business grants, visit