BY ETHAN KOMPF
Many people have thought about becoming an entrepreneur, but have never taken the leap, due to obstacles such as a lack of startup funds or the risk of failure. The Summer Company program is trying to help with that. The program was created by the Ontario government and, in this area, is delivered through the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre (WRSBC).
The Summer Company program offers $3,000 to students looking to start their own company and run it throughout the summer. Half of the money is given to students to help with startup costs and the other half is given upon successful completion of the program. It also offers mentorship opportunities for the participants.
Applicants must be between the ages of 15 and 29 and be in high school or post-secondary school and returning to school after the summer. They must be willing to put in 35 hours a week and work no more than 12 hours a week at another job. The applicants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis after completing a business plan. Last year there were 80 applicants and 30 people were accepted. This year there are 35 positions available.
“(Applicants have to want to go into (the program) without concerning themselves with making a lot of money,” said Rob Matlow, of REM Web Solutions. “When you start a new business it’s safe to assume you’re not going to make a lot of money right away.
“You have to go into it because you want to learn and try out whether you’re fit to be an entrepreneur.”
Matlow is one of 26 mentors in the program. He has been involved with it for 13 years. His area of expertise is the marketing side, such as getting your name out there without spending a lot of money.
“It’s a great opportunity to pass on some knowledge, mistakes I’ve made over the years, things like that, to people who are interested in trying entrepreneurship,” said Matlow.
Mentorship is a large part of the program. Participants meet in groups of four every two weeks for roundtable discussions with four mentors. They are also given the contact information of other mentors involved with the program. Examples of mentors include lawyers, bankers, accountants, experienced entrepreneurs and other business consultants.
“The (participants) who have more success are the ones who engage the mentors more often,” said Rob Clement, a business adviser with the WRSBC.
The deadline for applying is May 6. Post-secondary students begin in June and high school students begin in July. The program runs until around Labour Day.
For more information go to waterlooregionsmallbusiness.ca/summercompany or contact Rob Clement at firstname.lastname@example.org.