In the second part of WEtech Alliance’s Youth Entrepreneurship Series, I interviewed members from SIFE Windsor. This Odette School of Business student club creates and facilitates entrepreneurial projects across the City of Windsor. Brandon Ouellette (20), Katie Zajner (19) and Austin Faulkner (20) are all members of SIFE’s YOUTHrive program team. I sat down with the three of them to talk about YOUthrive’s past and glowing future.
SIFE Windsor’s YOUTHrive is a program entering its second year that was truly born out of a desire to enlighten students to the possibility of entrepreneurship as a viable career path. Austin Faulkner, manager of the project stated that his team is trying to “…instill an entrepreneurial mindset in students because we have come to realize that it has not always been that way in Windsor. Usually, [Windsorites] have been job takers because of the Big 3. […] Kids usually want to follow in their parents footsteps; we are teaching them that they don’t have to take jobs, they can make them.”
The program itself has been implemented in a few high schools thus far, namely Herman and Assumption. During the course of the eight-week program, students are grouped, given a $100 loan from the Windsor Family Credit Union (WFCU) and told to start a business. Throughout those eight weeks, mentors from SIFE come in and teach kids basic bookkeeping and marketing skills to build their business. At the end, the students must repay their loan and are graded on performance. The best part: they get to keep profits (if they have any). Last year, SIFE Windsor was able to deliver the program to 212 students, in 14 classrooms.
“One group made $800 off the initial $100 investment,” said Brandon Ouellette, “…these kids from Assumption, the Tie Guys, made custom ties for sports teams and school bands.” An 800% return isn’t too shabby, if you ask me. But, the rewards aren’t simply one-way. “The best part was watching the excitement and the enthusiasm [of the students involved]. When they [made] money or when product came they got so excited,” said Katie Zajner. Austin Faulkner added “…it’s nice to see kids who aren’t concerned about their future seeing entrepreneurship as a viable career option.”
SIFE Windsor’s programs are being recognized for their excellence regionally and nationally. At the Regional competition in mid-March, the team swept the competition’s three top honours. Their programs won for best Green Initiative, best Financial Literacy Initiative and best Entrepreneurial initiative. In addition, the team won the Odette School of Business’s Club of the Year honour. At the National Competition in Calgary, however, the team was only able to secure third place in the entrepreneurship competition. “We know what we have to work on; our projects are top notch, but our presentations have to be better,” said Zajner about their team. They have their sights set on the big time in the next few years.
In five years, the team hopes the project will be in all local high schools. In addition, the trio had some words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs, but Austin advice was truly inspiring: “…entrepreneurship is a mindset; it is a way of looking at a problem and finding an innovative, creative or unique idea to solve that problem . […] A lot of small businesses fail – good entrepreneurs take these mistakes to their next venture.”
For more information about SIFE Windsor and their programs, please visit http://sifewindsor.com/.
About WEtech Alliance’s Youth Entrepreneurship Series: For the next few weeks, WEtech Intern Jacob McCourt will be running a series of interviews with young Windsor-area entrepreneurs in anticipation of the Entrepreneurial Spark Tour event happening at St. Clair College on September 5th in partnership with Windsor West MPP Teresa Piruzza. This event will allow St. Clair College students to touch, see and interact with innovations happening right here in Windsor.