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School’s out: student’s plunge ahead with unique business ideas

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Thirteen Windsor-Essex students have joined hundreds of others across the province as first-time entrepreneurs in the annual Summer Company program.

Summer Company is an Ontario government program which provides young people with the resources and training to start a new summer business. Full-time students, aged 15-29, receive hands-on business training, advice and mentorship from local business leaders and a $3,000.

Since 2001, thousands of students in Ontario have launched businesses through Summer Company.

The WindsorEssex Small Business Centre (SBC) is working with a variety of new student businesses that provide services and products, such as IT services, art, landscaping, summer camps, tutoring, environmental products, shoe restoration, and bow and arrow games. SBC is delighted to highlight some of the unique Summer Company start-ups they are working with:

Cameron Chevalier: CODEducation

CODEducation offers coding and robotics summer camps for young students aged 5-15 years old. It uses interactive lessons to teach students real-world programming while keeping things interesting.

High school student Cameron Chevalier started his business thanks to his entrepreneurship class and his teacher’s encouragement. “I've often thought about owning my own business at some point in the future, specifically in the technology field. A significant portion of the class included making a business plan. After I completed it, I felt I had a decent base to start a business and my business teacher certainly agreed. I decided to apply to Summer Company and I was thankfully accepted!”

Cameron’s favourite part of operating his business is being able to educate young students. “I especially like being able to teach kids how to program because it's something not very many children are exposed to at a young age, and yet it's becoming an important skill in today's world.”

“What motivates me as an entrepreneur are the moments when a student finally grasps a concept or makes significant progress. Seeing my work come to fruition and seeing the child succeed is extremely rewarding,” stated Chevalier.

“The Summer Company program has helped me immensely. … Thanks to their mentoring sessions, I've learned a lot about managing my finances, how to market myself in order to establish a clientele [and] how to establish a price point for my services,” said Chevalier, adding, “The group sessions with the other students in the Summer Company program have allowed me to make connections that could serve me now and in the future.”

Dominik Jezierski: BowTagger

BowTagger is a unique combat archery rental business that combines dodgeball, laser tag and archery into one large team building activity. BowTagger can set up almost anywhere — gyms, yards, even ponds.

Jezierski explained how the business idea came about. “… my brother and I saw a video of a huge 100-player battle. As kids, we loved archery, swords and anything medieval, so we thought the incorporation of archery into a game that anyone could play was awesome.”

“I love the idea of running my own business and being my own boss. I enjoy mixing up my routine, and running your own business allows just that — everyday there are new challenges to face and it's hard to get bored,” stated Jezierski. “The success of my business is determined by my actions. It's an awesome feeling to be totally dependent on oneself and to strive for a work ethic that brings results.”

Participating in the Summer Company program is very helpful for Jezierski. “It's motivating to hear and talk to people your age about the setbacks and accomplishments of their businesses … hearing from local business owners and coaches about goal-setting, marketing and sales was especially helpful in getting my business off the ground.”

“One of my biggest take-aways so far is learning financial literacy. Understanding the different investments and the difference between good debt/bad debt is definitely some knowledge I will be using.”

Austin Gillis: 2the9s

Located in Essex, Ont., 2the9s provides premium restoration and cleaning services for all types of shoes. Shoes can be delivered or picked up.

Owner Austin Gillis’ love for shoes inspired him to start his business. “My motivation comes from the positive support I get from clients, friends and my family.”

The biggest obstacle for Gills is finding customers, however, he is starting to advertise on a much larger scale through social media.

“Summer Company has really given me the head start [that] a lot of young business owners don't have the opportunity to receive. It gave me the opportunity to start a business with very low risk, which is a huge learning experience.”

Cameron Chevalier, Dominik Jezierski and Austin Gillis are WindsorEssex Small Business Centre clients participating in the Summer Company student entrepreneurship program. They received training, mentorship and $3,000 to start a summer business. You, too, can receive support in launching or expanding your small business. Contact the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre for more information.