It’s no secret the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Ottawa.
From big-name local legends such as Shopify, to locally owned restaurants and boutiques, the city is home to newcomers and residents alike who want to bring their business plans to life.
To help entrepreneurs start off on the right foot, the Algonquin College School of Business is focusing on the entrepreneurial journey, designing course material and hands-on learning experiences to equip students with the skills to become successful business owners.
“We have a philosophy that entrepreneurship is both a skill set and a mindset,” says Katherine Root, Academic Chair, Business Administration at the Algonquin School of Business. “We see entrepreneurship as being for everyone.”
The Business Management and Entrepreneurship program within the School of Business, for example, supports aspiring business owners by challenging them to create a start-up idea that they then develop and enhance throughout the two-year program – gaining valuable e-commerce skills, team-building skills and customer acquisition skills along the way. More than 300 students enrolled in the program during this academic year, highlighting the growing interest in business ownership.
“We try to build the program in such a way that, regardless of where you are in your journey or what your idea is, you can walk away as a graduate ready to take the next step,” says Root. “The program goes step-by-step, focusing on the critical skills they need through courses such as financial literacy, marketing, e-commerce, sales management (which has been transformed by the pandemic), people leadership, and social innovation.”
Small businesses in the Ottawa area can also work with budding entrepreneurs through the college’s co-op program, which is a paid, full-time internship experience for students to work with start-ups to gain hands-on experience.
“It’s a great pipeline for talent,” says Root, adding that students can also leverage other industry partnerships during their time with the college, such as a free two-year Shopify store site to use through the course of their program, as well as the expertise of faculty members.
“Our faculty are all current or former entrepreneurs, which also helps inspire students,” says Root. “They bring their passion, their experience and their networks to our learners and I think that’s a real differentiator.”
The college has also expanded its entrepreneurial focus to the Culinary Management program.
As part of that program, students in their final term can create and pitch concepts for their own restaurant, preparing a detailed business plan for opening and maintaining a small business.
Along with informative course material, the business school offers ample opportunities outside of the classroom for students to flex their entrepreneurial muscles.
Several events throughout the year invite students to showcase their start-up ideas, allowing them to hone their pitching skills and mingle with industry professionals and mentors.
The SUMMIT Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, for example, is an intensive week-long course designed to help participants take their business concept from idea to pitch-ready. Open to all Algonquin students and recent grads, attendees get hands-on guidance from industry leaders, growing their accounting, marketing, sales and presentation skills. Typically including a stacked roster of local business leaders and experts, it’s an invaluable program for anyone looking to dive into business, says Root.
“We bring in industry judges and experts who enjoy speaking to students and who can offer a high level of leadership and guidance,” she adds. “Summit is an opportunity for anyone from any field to have an intensive introduction to what they need to know to start a business.”