During the last year, nine entrepreneurs took part in three qualifying pitch events organized by the Kootenay Association for Science & Technology (KAST).
The competition had thousands of viewers from across the province and beyond. According to KAST: “Entrepreneurs from every corner of the Kootenays braved the virtual stage to pitch their business to the world.”
The Kootenay Pitch Competition (KPC) grand prize taken home by Sami Majadla and the CertiCraft team was $2500 in cash, three months entry into KAST’s Venture Acceleration Program, five hours at the Selkirk Technology Centre, and $500 to host a party with their team.
Majadla is the CEO and one of the founders of CertiCraft, a company that wants to see craft cannabis communities around Canada, especially in the Kootenays, thrive. Their mission is to help craft cannabis growers transition into and succeed within the newly regulated market. CertiCraft has built the only compliance platform that fully digitizes and automates record-keeping requirements for cultivators.
For Majadla, this competition couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We were gearing up to raise capital to expand our operations and get where we want to go faster. An opportunity to take part in a local pitch event where part of the competition package was mentorship around pitching. It made sense to hone our skills.”
CertiCraft was dreamed up in 2018, says Majadla.
“We launched our pilot project in 2019 with a few select customers for a year and a half. Last fall is when we fully launched our product.”
Already, the company is working with clients all over Canada. Mostly in BC with a stronger concentration in the Kootenays.
“We have customers in every province in Canada,” says Majadla.
Winning the competition is validating for the team.
“It shows that we’re on the right track. Other people agree that we’re doing the right thing to award us the win. I hope it will help with seeking investments and finding investors because there were a few different investors on the pitch judge panel. We got a lot of great feedback from everybody involved. We are using it as a launchpad,” says Majadla.
CertiCraft accessedsupport from KAST’s Venture Acceleration Program in 2020. Majadla is grateful to have launched the business a year and a half before the pandemic.
“We decided to go fully remote as a business in 2019, so when the pandemic hit, we weren’t too affected. Nothing changed for us as a team. What was challenging was that we were seeking investment at that time. The pandemic hit the week we were ready to finalize the deal. Investors all around the world stopped making investments.”
The team became very budget conscious. Many of CertiCraft’s customers had their operations either shut down or delayed by a year or two, which affected the team’s ability to take on clients.
Majadla, born and raised in Palestine, moved to Canada in 2011 and became a citizen in 2018. He lived in Vancouver before finding a home here. Before moving to Nelson, he had the opportunity to perform and teach workshops in the Kootenays as a music producer. Community Futures brought him here to teach a seminar for cannabis producers in 2019.
“All the cultivators loved it. We had over 100 facilities show up,” says Majadla.
That connection paid off.
“Community Futures wanted us to move here as it was critical for the industry, so we moved here. I wanted to move here for years. I always loved it here and felt at home.”
Majadla was happy to face off with other local business owners in the competition. He says of the two other finalists:
“They’re both working on awesome businesses. I wish them all the success.”
The event was sponsored by Nelson & District Credit Union, New Ventures BC, Traction on Demand, Volition Advisors, Selkirk Technology Access Centre, Green Light Solutions, Rice & Co Chartered Professional Accountants, Kootenay Coop, Columbia Lake Technology Centre, and Columbia Basin Trust.