January 22, 2020

By BRADLEY ZORGDRAGER

Would you argue about business with 1,500 CEOs?

In a study published by IBM, 1,500 CEOs said that creativity and the ability to introduce new and improved products are important in leading businesses today.

And this is exactly what Conestoga College is trying to promote through their free experience entrepreneurship program.

“We think that we have a concept that can add value to every single student at Conestoga College and that is to help them understand the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Barbara Fennessy, chair of the School of Business.

The program consists of six workshops and a 10-hour mentorship with a successful local entrepreneur. Those who attend at least five of the workshops and complete the mentoring portion will receive a certificate of completion.

Although the program filled up in the first week, those interested should keep their eyes open, as Fennessy anticipates 5-10 spots will open up as people realize they don’t have time for the program.

Those who fill those spots would have to attend the five remaining workshops, as the first one will have already passed. These events will help participants learn to identify opportunities, network, create a business plan and use social media.

The last event is a competition similar to Dragon’s Den, in which participants showcase their business to a panel including entrepreneurs, professional business advisers and college faculty. The winner will receive prizes, including a ride in a hot air balloon with a “relatively famous entrepreneur.”

The costs of the events and prizes are partially covered by $5,000 received from Conestoga Students Inc. The program is also funded by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development.

Sandie Heirwegh, project co-ordinator of Experience Entrepreneurship, said they plan to match the mentors’ areas of expertise with the students’ area of interest by the end of November.

She said they hope the mentors will give students a tour of their business and take them to a networking event.

“The mentors that we have on board are very anxious to contribute back to the community and to help young people move forward and see their dreams become a reality because these mentors understand what that’s like because they’ve been there, done that. So they really have a sense of what the students are going through and what they’re feeling and they want to be a part of it,” said Heirwegh.

Whether students’ dreams materialize and they become successful entrepreneurs themselves or simply apply their skills to another business, Fennessy emphasized the benefit of the experience.

“We want Conestoga graduates in every program to have that competitive advantage coming out of this college.”

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