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Giving Entrepreneurs a Head Start

Posted in Business, Featured

Published on January 11, 2016 with 1 Comment

Strategic counsel and mentoring enhance grant programs for youth with small business ideas

BRAMPTON, ON: When Jacob Farjou was studying fitness, health promotion and kinesiology at Humber College and York University, like so many other students in a similar situation, he needed a job.

He had always held down several jobs while in school, but as he fast-tracked his way towards his kinesiology degree in the summers of 2012 and 2013, he needed a job that could work around the demanding hours of his schooling. He found his opportunity in Summer Company, a provincial program delivered by a local Small Business Office that gives students the opportunity to be their own boss for the summer with a grant of up to $3,000.

The grant money helped Jacob set up an exercise studio in his garage, but it was the expertise and guidance from the Brampton Entrepreneur Centre that got him established as the proprietor and personal fitness instructor at Dynasty Training.

“I had no idea what to expect or how people getting started in business were supposed to act,” recalls Jacob. “I had no idea what a business plan was or how to get started. The people in the City’s  Entrepreneur Centre were immensely helpful in getting me started.”

Dynasty Training was really just the beginning. After finishing his degree at York and completing a graduate program in exercise science and lifestyle management at Humber College, Jacob had designs about partnering with an established chain of fitness centres as an in-house kinesiologist. When those talks fell apart, he was initially despondent.

Then he went back to the City of Brampton and explored a small business program for youth known as Starter Company, which has grants of up to $5,000 to get a more permanent business established. Again, the money helped with the hard costs, but it was the soft services from the City that proved invaluable in him opening Trainsmart Wellness, the first and only kinesiology-based clinic in Brampton.

“This isn’t the kind of stuff they teach in health promotion or kinesiology. I was learning about fitness and the human body. I had no idea how to run a business. But the City was an endless supply of resources, providing advice, introducing me to the right people and helping me through every step of the way. The City saw my growth path right from the beginning, and knew all the ins and outs about what I needed to get started on the right foot,” said Jacob.

With youth unemployment in Peel Region approaching 19 per cent, compared to slightly more than eight per cent for the rest of the population, the City’s Entrepreneur Centre is using programs like Summer Company and Starter Company to equip youth with the tools they need to capitalize on the opportunity to be self-employed. These two key provincial programs lead clients to more of the counseling and mentoring services available.

“These programs are helping students create their own employment opportunities rather than having to fight with every other student who is seeking a summer job,” says Jennifer Vivian, a business advisor in the City of Brampton’s Entrepreneur Centre who was with Jacob throughout his entrepreneurial adventure. “Innovation and youth entrepreneurship are critical to securing a strong economic future for Brampton, and these kinds of programs will only nurture success.”

The City receives strong support from the local business community, which provides mentoring and training for young people looking to get a start in business. This has resulted in more complex business ventures. Where many of the applicants’ businesses from the initial program launch in 2001 were services based — landscaping, painting, summer camps for kids — today the businesses are branching more into the creative sector.

“There has definitely been a shift in the last couple of years,” says Vivian. “We are seeing a lot more visual artists and musicians and a lot more in the technology sector developing apps or designing websites. There have been some really interesting young people doing some amazing things with their businesses.”

About Brampton: 

The ninth-largest city in Canada, Brampton celebrates a diverse population that represents people from 209 distinct ethnic backgrounds who speak 89 different languages. Brampton residents and visitors have access to state-of-the-art recreation facilities and one of the fastest-growing transit systems in Canada. Opened in 2007, Brampton Civic Hospital is part of the William Osler Health System, which is one of the largest community hospitals in Canada. For more information, visit www.brampton.ca or follow @CityBrampton on Twitter.


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