New Loyalist program to help create tomorrow’s entrepreneurs today
By Jim Barber
It’s no secret that small and medium-sized businesses – the ones starting out as ideas in the fertile minds of hard-working, creative entrepreneurs, are the backbone of the Canadian economy and the primary source of job growth and economic resilience in the 21st century.
With that in mind, and understand that the waters of entrepreneurship can be choppy at the best of times, Loyalist College recently announced that it had become the home of a ground-breaking new post-graduate program to help those interested in gaining both experience and expertise in business creation and development.
Entrepreneurial Studies – Business Launch is a post-graduate program that will start in September 2015, and is open to both community college and university graduates, who will be accepted based on a competitive and rigorous screening and interview process.
But it will be worth the scrutiny for those who are accepted. They will be involved in a unique educational opportunity that is about as ‘real world’ as you can get – working side by side to create actual start-up businesses, under the guidance and mentorship of experienced, successful and versatile business advisors and mentors.
“This is a new model for developing entrepreneurship and we are thrilled to be accepting students now into this exceptional program,” said Loyalist College President and CEO Maureen Piercy in a press release.
“Business start-ups are not just an important economic engine for the province, but increasingly a global opportunity. This program will connect innovators here in the community who are looking to help smart start-ups get off the ground. It’s a win-win.”
Bay of Quinte Living recently conducted an email interview with Jim Whiteway, Dean of Business and Continuing Education at Loyalist College about Entrepreneurial Studies – Business Launch post-graduate program.
BOQ – What was the genesis of this program? Where did the idea come from, and what individual or group of people came up with the idea?
JW – In April of 2013, prominent local entrepreneur Mark Hanley and NGO executive Amy Harder pitched the idea to Loyalist College Business Professor Bob Millard, who is the faculty adviser for Enactus Loyalist. Mark Hanley is president of Hanley Corporation and Baybridge Investments Inc. Amy Harder is the former president of Enactus Canada, and recently returned to the area from Toronto after serving with a global youth entrepreneurship organization for 13+ years.
A working group was formed to conduct research into the proposed concept, and found the opportunities for college graduates to engage in business start-up programs to be limited, if available at all.
In December of 2013, Mark Hanley, Amy Harder, Bob Millard and Katelyn Guerard, a former Loyalist College Business student hired by Hanley Corporation, pitched the idea to Loyalist College executives and Prince Edward-Hastings MP Daryl Kramp.
From January to June 2014, a working group including Bob Millard, Amy Harder and Katelyn Guerard worked on the development of the proposed one-year post-grad entrepreneurship program, which would be integrated with a new accelerator located on the second floor of Hanley Corporation at 289 Front Street, Belleville.
In June 2014 the Loyalist College Board of Governors unanimously approved the proposal to launch the new program. An application for funding was then submitted to and approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU).
The genesis of the program was rooted in the belief that: The Bay of Quinte Region has a wealth of largely untapped natural advantages with limitless potential; given the right conditions, entrepreneurialism can thrive in our communities. And we have the opportunity to take a leadership role in growing the Canadian economy by making Eastern Ontario a place where innovators can succeed.
BOQ – Are there similar programs at other post-secondary institutions?
JW – There are other post-secondary programs for emerging entrepreneurs; however, as we researched and developed the local program, we found these other opportunities to be targeted to university graduates.
We sought to provide an opportunity that was accessible to college and university graduates while building a model in which students not only learn the tools to build a business, but put them to work creating actual start-ups with the guidance of experienced business mentors.
BOQ – What is the primary purpose of the program – what is the outcome you hope or plan on seeing?
JW – Our hope is that by pitching their potential start-up ideas to a network of established angel investors, student innovators will be able to capitalize on the opportunity to take their business ideas across the finish line.
Simply put, the vision of the program is to develop a regional hub of business innovation and creativity. In turn, this will help facilitate the launch of great Canadian entrepreneurial success stories within the Bay of Quinte Region.
BOQ – Break down the component parts of the program: what exactly are the students going to be doing?
JW – Successful applicants for this program will benefit from the following key components:
An intensive Start-up Boot Camp to provide a foundation in best business practices for turning high-growth business ideas into reality.
Targeted Mentor Match-Ups and Meet-ups involving industry-leading entrepreneurs and corporate executives committed to helping students to become customer-focused, sales-driven and investor-ready.
Space in the Start-up Studio has been designed as a hub of energy, shared learning and collaboration where students will work alongside one another as they build their new ventures.
Monthly Educational Pit Stops providing tailored, rigorous training on entrepreneurship issues of strategic importance to accelerate the path to success.
Bi-monthly Milestone Advisory Board Meetings with an exclusive group of seasoned, highly successful entrepreneurs dedicated to guiding the allocation of time, talent and financial resources to fast-track business growth.
Regular presentations in Industry Showcase and Pitch Competitions will be attended by prospective investors and others with a shared desire to innovate.
BOQ – Talk about the actual working environment for the students.
JW – This program will provide access to a living lab educational experience for students with a start-up that has global growth opportunity, a world-changing idea, or those who want to use their unique talents to build the next big thing.
Students will form into teams around ideas or existing early-stage start-ups and then be guided through the search process for a scalable, repeatable and profitable business model.
While also sourcing guidance from a network of expert advisers and benefiting from resource-rich connections, students will be charged with the task of making it happen — launching and growing their start-up in under a year.
BOQ – Why do you think this program is a necessary one?
JW – This program was created in response to a number of related opportunities: To meet the need for more high-quality jobs and high-impact start-ups in the Quinte Region and surrounding communities, helping to ensure economic diversity, vitality and sustainability in southeastern Ontario; to make experiential learning opportunities available to both college and university graduates who are interested in starting and growing high-growth companies and to deliver a curriculum that is focused on the unique tools required for entrepreneurial success, rather than traditional “big business” strategies and tactics.
BOQ – Talk about the general importance of entrepreneurship to both the economy of the Bay of Quinte Region and the province of Ontario.
JW – SMEs (small to medium enterprises) that can be globally scaled are critical to the Bay of Quinte Region, the province of Ontario and the Canadian economy as a whole. According to Industry Canada, small businesses make up 98 percent of employer businesses in Canada, creating more than 100,000 new jobs each year.
Entrepreneurs have the power to support and strengthen the trajectory of our community’s long-term economic health as they create jobs, open new markets, attract investment, generate wealth and breed success.
By providing the best environment for entrepreneurs to succeed in the Quinte Region, we will provide new paths to generate economic opportunity for our community, our province and our country.
BOQ – There are statements in the press release that talk about the Quinte Region becoming a ‘hub’ for entrepreneurial activity. How and why is this happening?
JW – The Quinte Region struggles to address many economic, social and environmental challenges commonly experienced by rural communities in Canada. From retaining top young talent to attracting investment and high quality jobs, small cities must look for unique ways to amplify what makes them strong in order to successfully compete in the global economy.
Answering this call to action, entrepreneurs must be empowered to pursue their big ideas here in the Quinte Region – this was the inspiration behind the program.
This program is founded on the strength of regional partnerships. By offering this, Loyalist College is well positioned to serve as the epicentre for nurturing entrepreneurial leadership.
This program has already defined clear workable partnerships with a number of regional, provincial and national entrepreneurial initiatives, including Hanley Corporation, Launch Lab, Trenval, Bay of Quinte Economic Development, the Ontario Centres of Excellence, and the federal government.
BOQ – Who will the mentors be? How are they selected?
JW – Mentors will be recruited from among local entrepreneurs and industry executives in the Quinte Region and, where appropriate, outside the local community to ensure students have access to the most relevant sector specialists. At the end of the day, it’s critical that the students be mentored by those who are best positioned to provide strategic guidance as it relates to their individual start-ups and who understand the challenges and opportunities they will face along the way.
Ultimately, the program will look to engage seasoned professionals who have a desire to give back and share their time, talent and connections to give students the best chance for success.
BOQ – What sort of students will be considered for the program and how will they be selected? Do they have to be current Loyalist students?
JW – This program will be open to a diverse group of post-secondary students with a range of backgrounds and interests who have graduated from any recognized diploma or degree program. They may be:
Students who have a strong desire to be an entrepreneur – whether they have an existing idea, have demonstrated entrepreneurialism through extracurricular activities, or simply wish to pursue entrepreneurship as a career option; or
Students who want to work for a start-up – perhaps they don’t see themselves as the innovator, but know that they want to work as part of a start-up founding team.
The selection process will be conducted in two stages: A written application and a live interview before a panel of relevant judges (conducted face to face or via an online platform for those unable to travel to the College).
For more information about the Entrepreneurial Studies – Business Launch post-graduate program, visit http://www.loyalistcollege.com/programs-and-courses/full-time-programs/entrepreneurial-studies-business-launch.
– Jim Barber is a veteran, award-winning journalist and author based in Greater Napanee. Contact him at [email protected]