WORKING WITH YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS
The Dalhousie University School of Business Career Services (SBCS) has expanded options for students in the compulsory Commerce Co-op program by including entrepreneurial work terms. With support from the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship, students interested in exploring entrepreneurship have access to business coaches, mentors, an Entrepreneurial Skills Program(ESP)¹ and performance subsidies to list a few. The entrepreneurship work term focuses on opportunity identification, assessment and actualization. Entrepreneurship co-op students will be able to holistically apply and integrate the business skills developed during their academics to the exploration of entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurial experiences of the co-op work term provides a context and relevance to the theory learned through coursework.
A business coach will assist students in furthering the exploration of entrepreneurship. Any interested Commerce Co-op student develops an action plan with guidance from the business coach who would then assist and support the students in achieving the action plan over the four month period. This would encourage and provide more opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop. For the students who are already operating a business, the business coach would assist them in developing an improvement or expansion plan for their four month term. This will provide another option to our students and will also contribute to the economic well being of this region by generating more jobs in the region.
The entrepreneurial attitudes of Commerce Co-op students at Dalhousie University certainly are a tremendous resource for the region’s economy. The team at SBCS is excited about the opportunity to encourage more of our students to explore this option and is keen to promote this with the proper supports in place.
The pilot program started April, 2005 and sixteen students were approved to proceed with an entrepreneurial work term. All sixteen achieved varying degrees of success of the goals they set for this four month period. An example of this success is as follows:
Pierre Bou Karam and Lucas Rowicki are Dalhousie Commerce Co-op students who opted to complete an entrepreneurial work term for the summer of 2005. They started a business called P & L Sealers and spent their summer sealing decks and driveways. Pierre and Lucas projected profits of approximately $25,000. Not bad for four months of work! They also anticipated building a business they can license and sell to others and/or continue to run while they are in fulltime classes.
As the owners of P&L Sealers, Pierre and Lucas set a strong precedent for students looking to undertake an entrepreneurial work term at Dalhousie University. Over the course of their entrepreneurial work term, the students accessed several different resources made available under the new EWT program available at Dalhousie. Some of these resources included:
- A business coach – A coach was assigned to the students and was engaged by the students in the planning, start-up, operational, and exit aspects of the business. In addition, the coach contacted the students and the students contacted the business coach during the work term to assist the students with issues as they developed.
- A Performance Subsidy – All students involved in the entrepreneurial work terms are required to conduct a minimum of 35 hours of work per week for the duration of the work term. In order to receive a performance subsidy, each of them gave a presentation to a panel of judges who assessed the level of entrepreneurial development throughout the work term. The subsidy was based on the actual level of achievement of the projected goals.
- Participation in the Entrepreneurial Skills Program – Pierre and Lucas prepared a business plan for operating their business as a requirement as part of the requirements for a New Venture Creations class (part of ESP). They will also enroll in the ESP program this fall.
- Enrollment in other Entrepreneurial Programming at Dalhousie – The students have successfully completed New Venture Creation and introductory business classes as a normal part of their academic training.
To ensure success in their venture, the students also found it necessary to go beyond their academic training. Pierre and Lucas have used their own networks in addition to those of their business coach to ensure that their venture would be effectively implemented and positioned. The firm has worked with members of the local business community to identify new sales opportunities and create marketing materials. In addition, the students negotiated preferential contractor prices with a local hardware retailer.
P&L Sealers applied for, and were granted, a loan under the Students in Business loan program (funding provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). Pierre and Lucas applied the loan funds to enhance the customer experience and increase quality of the service they provide. More importantly, the Students in Business loan provided Pierre and Lucas with the opportunity to build their business to a scale and scope that would not be otherwise possible.
As their business developed over the semester, Pierre and Lucas identified unique opportunities for growth in their venture. The partners worked with local realtors to identify prospects that were attempting to sell their houses. By addressing the issue of deck maintenance, the homeowners could then potentially receive more upon sale for their house. In addition, Pierre and Lucas negotiated contracts with multi unit building owners which created a strong cash flow for P&L Sealers.
This is snapshot of the potential that can be achieved by our students. The students acknowledged that the support and guidance they receive from the business coach, mentors and programs they are involved in contribute to the success of venturing. We anticipate more of our students will choose the entrepreneurial option in the future as the trends in our economy continues to show an increase in small and medium-size businesses. We look forward to encouraging more students to create their own futures and opportunities by experiencing the entrepreneurial option.
¹ ESP is an entrepreneurship training program for university students in all degree programs. Students will discover and hone business skills and add to the personal value of their degrees. This program is currently offered at Dalhousie University and where possible will be an excellent resource and support to students in their entrepreneurial work term.
Submitted by JoAnne Akerboom (Director, School of Business Career Services) and Paul Bailey (Entrepreneurial Project Coordinator, Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship)