Summer Company is a popular student entrepreneurship program of the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation. The program is administered by the South Georgian Bay Small Business Enterprise Centre and is designed to give entrepreneurial students the tools they need to start and run a summertime business. The Small Business Enterprise Centre has accepted five students into the program this year who are currently running successful summer ventures.
Through hands-on coaching from Gillian Fairley, Centre Manager, mentoring and advice from community business people and funding of up to $3,000, these students experience the exciting challenges and pride that comes with operating their own small business.
“Marketing is one of the areas the students really need to focus on and we try to support them in any way we can,” explains Gillian. “It’s a very short period of time for these businesses to actually get up and running, and to get clients, so it’s quite a challenge.”
This support included helping this summer’s participants put together business advertisements then getting those ads into local newspapers. The students also did a lot of work in word-of-mouth direct selling.
“They were encouraged to introduce themselves to people in the community who might need their services. It’s important to establish these relationships, especially through face-to-face meetings. That’s a sales and marketing skill that will be very valuable to them as they grow their business, as well as for any future ventures.”
Gillian provides ongoing assistance with business expenses and other activities and was also able to line up formal mentors and business advisors from the community to assist the students over the summer.
Eligibility in Summer Company includes returning to school come the fall. This year’s participants are a mix of high school and post secondary students with a variety of business ideas including:
We caught up with three of the students to see how Summer Company has helped their small businesses.
Mia Forrester, 23, an animal behaviour studies student at Western University, who started a pet sitting, walking and grooming business called Petscapades, said she’s very happy with how things are going.
“It’s definitely been a good thing to be part of Summer Company. It’s been a huge help,” she says. “I picked Gillian’s brain and she was so helpful. She came up with things I never even thought about.”
Mia designed a business website after taking part in the Enterprise Centre’s hands-on workshop about maximizing traffic to your website. As well as print advertising, she marketed her business by distributing magnets and business cards in the community, especially targeting pet stores and veterinarian offices.
“I didn’t expect business to pick up so fast,” Mia admits. “I’m getting calls pretty much every day now.”
With her business on the path to success, Mia hopes to continue it part time when she returns to school in September.
“I hope it’s as, or more, successful when I’m in school so I can make some money on the side.”
Emily Niermann, a third-year graphics design student at Fanshawe College, started Devising Designs. She designs logos, business cards and advertising posters. Emily says Summer Company has also helped her find work.
“I’d been told my first five-10 customers would be through people I know, which has been happening.”
Selena Blaise, owner/publisher of Georgian Life Magazine, mentors Emily.
“She’s given me lots of advice,” says Emily. “She’s helping me come up with ideas on how I can get work and has even helped me to get some work.”
Emily adds being part of Summer Company has been good for her business.
“The funding helped with advertising, business cards and some equipment that helps me a lot with my illustrations. Being part of Summer Company has helped promote my business, and if I hadn’t taken part in it, I probably wouldn’t have found some of the work I’ve already done.”
Nick Dymond, an 18-year-old high school student, started Dymond Finish, a patio furniture and backyard improvement business. He also says Summer Company has helped his business.
“The funding helped with advertising costs, supplies and equipment like saws and a rotor table. The Summer Company program has helped me a lot. With Summer Company as a second helping hand, I’ve had a lot more calls than I would’ve had.”
John McKague who started Cedar Brook Machine & Welding, and Michael Craig who started Uride, a carpooling website, also have clients through their involvement with Summer Company.