We sat down with Sophia Bonilla, recent ICUBE Start Up program graduate and winner in the final business model competition, to discuss her business, what she has learned, and where she is headed next!
Do you have a great idea? Applications are open for the summer Start Up cohort – Apply Now!

What made you decide to apply to ICUBE?

I’m an UofT alumna and came across the application deadline. I wanted to be part of a community that would allow me to develop my idea and have the opportunity to connect with other Entrepreneurs.

The ICUBE Start Up program brings together a diverse and multidisciplinary group of 16 entrepreneurs who are all at the same stage in developing their idea. The cohort builds a strong community, and each member helps in the development and growth of their colleagues’ businesses.

Sophia Bonilla – Founder, Sustento 

Tell us about your business

We are developing pet food that provides excellent nutrition while reducing its ecological footprint. Currently, pet parents have to opt for traditional, meat-based products, to ensure their pets receive the nutrients they need, even when it makes them feel misaligned with their values of sustainability. We are convinced that using an evidence-based approach we can provide superb nutrition and use sustainable ingredients in the process. Our secret is innovating, using alternative proteins and other novel ingredients.

What was your main take away from the program? 

To validate assumptions and pivot when necessary!

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

It’s going to be a big year for Sustento! We will be busy formulating, testing our products, designing ecofriendly packaging and getting ready to market.

As a recipient of ICUBE funding, Sofia was able to leverage her prize winnings to help fund the research and development needed to begin formulating her product! We love seeing ICUBE dollars translate into action.

What failures or obstacles have you faced in your start up journey? How did you recover, and what did you learn?

Very early in the process I realized the original idea I was pursuing had several flaws and it ultimately wasn’t going to be a viable business. It was worrying, but I was able to change some aspects of the business model and now I feel very confident about it. I feel lucky to have had that realization early in the process. I learned that sharing your idea with others will force you to answer difficult questions and test your ideas.

Part of the mindset that sets entrepreneurs apart is the ability to see set-backs as learning opportunities. We encourage our start ups to “fail fast” in the safety of our boot camps, so they can ultimately leave with a better, stronger idea that will serve them well as they grow.

What advice would you give to others considering a business idea?

I’d say if it is something you really would like to do, give it try! There are so many resources available. If you do decide to give it try, validate as much as possible the assumptions you make in the process.

Do you have a great idea? Applications are open for the summer Start Up cohort – Apply Now!