A spark in the business community

Malcolm MacTaggart, a business professor at UOIT, is the executive director of the Spark Angels Network, which invests in small businesses just getting their start. MacTaggart calls the investments "leap of faith money."

Malcolm MacTaggart, a business professor at UOIT, is the executive director of the Spark Angels Network, which invests in small businesses just getting their start. MacTaggart calls the investments “leap of faith money.”

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

When you get that bright idea and want to make a go of it, sometimes you need a little extra help. Sometimes, you need an angel.

Well, burgeoning entrepreneurs, you may be in luck.

The non-profit group Spark Angels Network (SAN) brings investors together to help out new and growing businesses.

Malcolm MacTaggart, the network’s executive director, says the idea to set up SAN came about when looking at what was already available in Oshawa for new businesses and, more notably, seeing what was missing.

“The Spark Centre does a great job of providing advice and guidance and mentorship, but for most small businesses, advice and mentorship is one thing but you still need money,” he says.

“Spark Angels provides the flip side of the same coin from the entrepreneur’s perspective.”

MacTaggart says SAN, along with other angel investment networks starting up across the country, are great for businesses that have that great idea, but do not have the money to back it up and make it grow.

“You get to the stage where, assuming you have some success and got some traction, you’re in this no man’s land of not having any history, being young, having no credit history, having no assets or no collateral, so traditional sources of funding are non-existent,” he says.

“It’s basically leap of faith of money.”

MacTaggart, himself no stranger to the business world, having previously served as the general manager of Microsoft’s Canadian operations, says that he and others in the network are looking for those that remind them of when they were first getting their start in the business world.

“When I talk to members, I say, in a nutshell, be the person you needed 25 years ago,” he says.

“All entrepreneurs can all say, ‘Yeah, I remember when I was starting out, I could’ve used that first guidance, that first pot of money, that first set of contacts.’ Sometimes, breaking into business is really daunting because you don’t know anybody, and if you know someone, you can get through the door.”

MacTaggart says the group typically invests between $50,000 and $350,000 in new projects, with just under $2.5 million going out the door since SAN’s inception in 2013.

While the group has distributed its fair share of investments, MacTaggart says there is one thing SAN will not put money into.

“We don’t do retail. We look for some intellectual, smarts component,” he says.

“We can provide only so much money. A quarter million, really, is not that much money in the grand scheme of things. We need to be able to say, alright, by making an injection of that kind of money, where’s the high potential path for that? So if you have a retail business, really, you can hire or expand into the next unit.”