From help for the elderly to a seamless locker for selling your products – Ascend Accelerator grads show off their unique ventures

Image: Ingenuity manager Alyson MacKay (centre) is pictured with Ascend Accelerator graduates (from right) Christopher Silver, Louis Johnson, Allan Alias, and Asha Nurse.

Thunder Bay, Ont.  

Lakehead recently celebrated the graduates from its third cohort of the Ascend Accelerator boot-camp-style program, hosted by the Ingenuity incubator space.

Along with FedNor funding, participants in the student-based business ventures received mentorship and weekly workshops. They were held accountable to milestone goals created over the 10-week program, which ran from May 8 to July 14.

This year the cohort included four participants who each explored a separate business venture. Ingenuity manager Alyson MacKay said it was exciting to help the students develop their businesses.

“I can’t believe the third cohort is coming to an end – it's amazing how fast the 10 weeks went by,” MacKay said.

“I’m incredibly proud of all the hard work the students have put into their business ideas and am looking forward to celebrating their success. Their commitment and passion drove the energy in the Ascend program and they’ve come a long way since the first week.”

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, congratulated the participants for reaching graduation.

"By providing financial support and access to mentors, Ingenuity Ascend offers a great platform for Lakehead students to transform their ideas into reality and launch their unique business ventures,” he said.

“From using thermal sensors to detect falls to developing automated lockers for artists and entrepreneurs to sell their products, our graduating entrepreneurs have solved gaps in the market and are contributing to the growth of our regional economy.

“Once again, I’d like to congratulate the graduates, and I wish you all the best as you ascend your businesses to the next level,” Dr. Dean said.

Louis Johnson’s project, Liaison, implements a completely automated locker system that allows artists and entrepreneurs to seamlessly market and sell their crafts, products, or services in high-foot-traffic venues.

Vendors can simply load their lockers with merchandise and consumers can conveniently purchase them with the push of a button. This solution now gives vendors the opportunity to create more, invest more, and profit more.

“This year's Ascend program hosted by Ingenuity has been an unforgettable experience,” Johnson said.

“As a physics graduate and a mechanical engineering student with no business background, I was doubtful of my capabilities to become an entrepreneur.

“However, over these past 10 weeks, I wasn't just exposed to all of the essential aspects of starting a business but was taken through the step-by-step process of how to implement them.

“Alongside the valuable information I've gained from this program, I was able to network with other like-minded entrepreneurs, which created an environment where everyone was able to feed off of each other’s ideas to create innovative solutions.

“Turning your passion into a business is an extremely difficult process, but with guidance and support from Ingenuity the self-doubt started to fade and the end goal became much more attainable,” Johnson added.

Christopher Silver’s project, Silver Vantage Software, uses computer vision and machine learning to create a thermal fall detection system for elderly people. A thermal sensor will monitor a room, sending an alert to a family member or personal support worker if a fall is detected.

Allan Alias is launching Pixel Point, a comprehensive social media management and real estate media solution provider that specializes in management and digital marketing. Pixel Point offers a range of services from content creation to paid ads management.

Asha Nurse created Silver Sands Nail Bar, a home-based and mobile nail salon in Thunder Bay that offers gel polish, gel extensions, and overlays. It specializes in the newest trends in the nail industry.

As a mobile salon, Silver Sands takes the hassle out of finding a nail technician by bringing their services directly to you. The mission of Silver Sands is to understand and meet the needs of its clients, especially young people.

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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 nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2023 World Universities Rankings for the fourth consecutive year, and the number one university in the world with fewer than 9,000 students in THE’s 2023 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit

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