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Catching up with Dakota Lutes

There’s a new name on the block to better describe what Enterprise Saint John has been doing for years to help develop new entrepreneurs.

Enterprise Saint John’s Navigator initiative will add existing and new programs under the Navigator name. It’s an effort to show the various programs we offer and how they may work together to make it easier for people to navigate.

“It is challenging for new entrepreneurs to know all the steps in starting a new business,” says Dakota Lutes, Entrepreneur Development Officer with Enterprise Saint John.  “The ESJ Navigator tagline Guiding Entrepreneurs to Success, really describes our role in the journey of an entrepreneur.  From developing a business idea, to getting ready to launch, we can help make connections, identify resources, and offer business coaching but ultimately, it’s the entrepreneur himself or herself who is in the driver’s seat.  We’re just there to help make sure they’re headed in the right direction.”

ESJ’s Navigator will replace programming that was once under Vennture Garage branding and the hope is that the new structured format will allow for the development of more businesses. So far this year, 16 businesses have been started, creating 22 jobs in the community.

Lutes says he wants Navigator to be a multi-layered approach and a one-stop shop where people can see exactly what programs might best suit them.

“We’re really excited about this direction. The Venture Validation Program that was developed for Navigator will be the cornerstone to build up our community of entrepreneurship,” he says. “We want to play a key role in helping people from our region attain success in business.”

Enterprise Saint John’s Navigator encompasses the following programs:

Venture Validation Program:

This 13-week business course helps aspiring entrepreneurs move from business idea to opportunities. Twelve participants per Spring, Fall and Winter session will be exposed to a combination of workshops and coaching that helps to: identify the size of their market, customers and competition, create a value proposition, start-up and operational costs. All of this will lead to a polished pitch which is essential to securing financing, building a team, and or accessing other government programs.

Incubator Program:

The Incubator Program is built to support the development of technology start-ups. Start-ups will get a membership to ConnexionWorks, the local co-working space in Saint John. Companies will receive weekly mentoring sessions with our Entrepreneur-in-Residence, access to our mentor network, workshops, and opportunities to network with key players in their industry who may be able to help them.  Ideal candidates for the Incubator are start-ups developing and commercializing technology, seeking their first round of financing, and, or, conducting proof of concept projects. Participants are expected to fill out monthly progress reports and stay on pace for achieving objectives set by the Entrepreneur-in Residence.

Kickstart Your Business:

Our already established Kickstart Your Business Program is a 12-week business networking and skills program. The course is offered once a year for 10 – 15 new business owners. The program curriculum is delivered by local experts at ConnexionWorks. The course includes a robust financial boot camp and key primer courses in sales, marketing, social media, and business pitching.

Impact Loan:

The Impact Loan, formerly knowns as the SEED loan, is a loan fund for the development of business. The fund will permit entrepreneurs to apply for a loan of up to $20,000 on a 5-year term. The loan is offered at the interest rate of 2% + prime and is interest-free for 12 months. In addition to the capital, the program also offers free business management skills training for successful applicants.


For a more detailed look at program outlines you can go to

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