Graduates of the Ascend Accelerator program include, from left,
Yash Gupta, Nehi Igbinijesu, Mary Wokomah, Tristan St. Aubin,
Ajey Meekis, and Andrew Faulkner.
July 23, 2021 – Thunder Bay, Ont.
Meet the inaugural graduates of the Ascend Accelerator program, a 12-week boot camp hosted by Ingenuity at Lakehead University that helped entrepreneurs kick-start their business ideas into reality.
Mary Wokomah started Sunkissed Universe, a black-owned fashion brand where art and fashion collide to create an infusion of wearable artworks.
With each hand-painted design, no two pieces are alike. Sunkissed Universe offers pieces that are not only functional but also stylish and durable. From their fashionable hand-painted purses to their comfortable, urban lounge wear, Sunkissed offers an array of street wear clothing that is sure to turn heads.
Marius Fejzulla, Marko Javorac, and Yash Gupta founded Titan Intelligence, a software solutions company based out of Thunder Bay that develops advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to help add value to their client's business.
Through their computer vision software, they have extracted raw data from their client's operations to help drive growth and new revenue opportunities.
Ajey Meekis and Tristan St. Aubin started By The Bay Esports in Thunder Bay to bring competitive tournaments to the region while creating content that highlights the players. They plan to increase viewership to upcoming broadcasts.
Nehi Igbinijesu and Austin Otsu created Manilla, a mobile payment company that connects international students in Canada with their friends and families abroad.
Using a peer-to-peer matching system, its application facilitates cross-border payments for users with speed and security. Being the recipient of the 2021 Lakehead Ingenuity Award, this company is poised to launch its interactive app on the App Store and Google Play this fall.
“Being a part of the Ascend program has been a truly remarkable experience for me and my co-founder, Austin,” said Igbinijesu, co-founder of Manilla.
“The program made the murky waters of venturing navigable by helping us gain a firm hold on legal, accounting and taxes while also providing us with a pool of advisors and entrepreneurs from which to glean invaluable experience. The program was simply amazing.”
Alyson MacKay, manager of Lakehead’s first student business incubator space Ingenuity, said she was immensely proud of what these ventures accomplished.
“Their passion and dedication is inspiring not only to myself but to future student entrepreneurs.
“The Ascend program wouldn't have been possible without the support of FedNor, Ingenuity community partners, faculty, mentors and local entrepreneurs. Congratulations to all the teams and I thank them all for making the first cohort of the Ascend program a success,” MacKay said.
Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead University’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, congratulated the eight graduates of the Ascend Accelerator program, wishing them luck with their ventures.
“This is a new initiative for Ingenuity that provides an opportunity for participants to learn how to overcome the challenges of starting a business and making it a viable enterprise,” Dr. Dean said.
“I know our staff and mentors have really enjoyed leading you through this program. Your graduation today represents an important step forward to launching your business.”
The Ascend Accelerator program provided support for the development of student-based business ideas.
Along with funding provided from FedNor, the four student-based business ventures that were accepted to the program were provided mentorship and weekly workshops. They were held accountable to milestone goals created throughout the 12 weeks.
The first cohort saw a diverse group of businesses navigating their way through the entrepreneurial journey; they all faced some challenges and saw many successes.
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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and in the top 100 of 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit www.lakeheadu.ca.