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Entrepreneurship: A better way to spend summer vacation

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

 

Why spend the summer working a job you may not like, or worse, doing nothing at all?  For nearly 1,000 Ontario students annually, becoming their own boss is a much more rewarding experience.

Through Ontario’s regional small business enterprise centres, high school and post-secondary students can try their hand at entrepreneurship through the Summer Company program.

Summer Company was introduced by the Ontario government in 2001 with the goal of providing full-time students, ages 15 to 29, with a chance to run their own business over the summer months.  Participants receive hands-on business training, advice, and mentorship from local business leaders, as well as a grant of up to $3,000.

Over the past 16 years, Summer Company has grown immensely to help nearly 10,000 Ontario students realize their entrepreneurship potential.  In 2016, the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre saw a record high 25 students accepted to the program, while close to 900 students were enrolled province-wide.

Popular business types in Windsor-Essex include lawn care, photography and tutoring services.  Last year’s cohort of student entrepreneurs also saw businesses such as home healthcare, website design, animation, virtual reality viewers and woodworking.

While some students use the experience to enhance their skillset and resumes, others find great success in their business and continue running it through the school year, and eventually evolve it into a full-time venture.

In 2016, 15-year-old Alexandra Newhook started The Beach House Goodie Shack on Bob-lo Island, where she made and sold island-inspired skin care products such as cold processed soaps, lip balms, body butters and sunscreens.

Studio Franjolos is also running since launching through Summer Company in 2016.  Owner Philip Franjo specializes in traditional 2D frame-by-frame animation and, with business growing, he’s currently hiring animators, storyboard artists and background artists.

Through Summer Company in 2015, Zaheem Riberdy launched Kustom Kicks, a company that sells fashionable, custom-made footwear.  As a painter and artist, he helps clients transform their old shoes into fashionable and unique styles.  Riberdy continues to operate his business today.  He credits the Summer Company program for helping him build a marketing strategy to reach influential people in the fashion industry, and the grant enabled him to purchase the tools he needed to create his unique, handcrafted shoes.

Of course, many Sumer Company participants use the experience gathered in the program to start entirely new businesses once they graduate. Thom Malone launched The Backpack Company through Summer Company in 2011, providing a backpack containing school supplies to assist in the education of children for every one backpack bought.  Malone then went on to start a new business in 2016 called Simplifly, a website that advertises mistake airfares.

If you’re innovative, creative, hardworking, and inclined to be your own boss, consider applying to Summer Company before hitting the mall with a stack of resumes this summer.

The WindsorEssex Small Business Centre is now accepting applications for its 2017 Summer Company program.  Visit ontario.ca/summercompany for eligibility and application requirements, or call 519-253-6900.  General applications are due May 6, 2017, or April 29, 2017, for Specialist High Skills Major Co-op students.

After crafting an idea for a summer business, students must submit a business plan outlining how the business will operate before being accepted into the program.  Interested students should visit ontario.ca/summercompany to fill out an application and meet with a Small Business Centre advisor.

Once accepted into the program, entrepreneurs operate their businesses over the summer months – two months for high school students, and three months for post-secondary students – on a full-time basis.  Students will receive mentorship and training opportunities to make sure their business successfully launches and operates through the summer.