County announces winners of Rural Innovation Challenge

The County, ventureLAB, and Digital Main Street are pleased to recognize the 2020 winners of the Rural Innovation Challenge. In December 2020, the partners launched a program to encourage local businesses to explore, source, and pilot novel solutions that support main street business continuity in Simcoe County during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winners of the challenge will receive support to help fund, pilot or scale their solutions, with $10,000 awarded to the winner, and $7,000 and $4,000 to the first and second runners-up respectively. The County would like to thank all those who came up with innovative solutions and congratulate the following three winning companies on their innovative ideas that support business continuity in Simcoe County amidst the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1.  First Place: TAKU Retail - The TAKU Retail cloud platform allows established main street retailers to seamlessly move their operations online.
  2. First Runner-Up: Wrmth – Wrmth provides the first 100% Canadian designed and manufactured outdoor heated furniture to extend the patio season.
  3. Second Runner-Up: delivereh. – delivereh. is a “new normal” logistics company founded to support small businesses during the pandemic and beyond. The company offers an end-to-end digital solution that can be dispatched by any type of business for any community delivery.

An information session is scheduled on February 12 at 1:00pm to discuss the Community Collaboration Program and give our winners a platform to present their solutions and answer any questions from the community. Please register for free at:

If one of these solutions would help support your business during the pandemic, please complete the Expression of Interest form by February 28, 2021, and a member of the ventureLAB team will contact you for further information.

About the Rural Innovation Challenge:

The Simcoe County Rural Innovation Challenge involved a community of organizations. Working with the Centre For Business and Economic Development, North Simcoe Community Futures Development Corporation, Nottawasaga Futures, Orillia Area Community Development Corporation and the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre, it was determined that successful solutions must seek to address one or more of the following challenge areas:

  • ​​Enhance streamlined delivery and order fulfillment services for online purchases made from main street businesses
  • Expand and optimize schedule and ticket management services for main street businesses
  • Enable main street businesses to better manage and care for the physical and mental well-being of their staff and employees

​Funding for this program is made available in part through the Digital Main Street Future Proof program, with support from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).


“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging but many of our regional businesses have adapted and forged ahead with innovative solutions, and these three winners of our Rural Innovation Challenge emphasize the level of talent that exists within our communities. On behalf of County Council and our Economic Development Sub-Committee, I would like to thank them for participating and sharing their successful solutions to support businesses across the region as we all work towards recovery.” – Warden George Cornell

“Entrepreneurs and Main Street businesses are critical engines to local economic success. At ventureLAB, we work with founders to bridge the digital divide and integrate tech into Main Street businesses to build back a resilient and sustainable economy. Congratulations to the winners of the Rural Innovation Challenge and their innovative solutions.” – Jane Gertner, VP, Partnerships, ventureLAB

“The Government of Canada is pleased to support the Digital Main Street platform and see innovative initiatives, like the Simcoe County Rural Innovation Challenge, which support local organizations to come up with unique solutions to support main street businesses. We are proud to work with Digital Main Street partners including Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Regional Innovation Centres to help our innovation ecosystem grow stronger.” – The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario

About the County of Simcoe

County of Simcoe is composed of sixteen member municipalities and provides crucial public services to County residents in addition to providing paramedic and social services to the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia. Visit our website at

About ventureLAB

ventureLAB is a leading technology hub located in Markham in York Region, Canada’s second-largest tech cluster. At ventureLAB, we grow globally competitive tech titans that build-to-scale in Canada, with a focus on hardware and enterprise software technologies. ventureLAB has enabled thousands of tech companies to scale, and our portfolio of companies have created close to 4,000 jobs that have raised over $200 million in investment capital to continue their growth and scale.

About Digital Main Street

Digital Main Street is a program that helps main street businesses achieve digital transformation. The program is built around an online learning platform, structured training programs, and our Digital Service Squad, a team of street-level team members who help main street businesses grow and manage their operations through technology.

Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association on Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. Digital Main Street is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages. A $42​.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa, and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses to go digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.

About FedDev Ontario
For more than 10 years, FedDe​v Ontario has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation and growth in Canada’s most populous region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects.

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Chris Hedley​
Public Relations Consultant
County of Simcoe, Service Simcoe Branch
705-715-7654 (mobile)

Collin Matanowitsch
Manager, Public Relations
County of Simcoe, Service Simcoe Branch
705-734-8386 (mobile)

Media Release: February 10, 2021


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Thursday, September 28, 2023 – 5 pm to 7 pm La Cle – 63 Main Street, Penetanguishene Hosted by The Economic Development Corporation North Simcoe

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County announces winners of Rural Innovation Challenge