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Lazaridis School of Business & Economics
Laurier director meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss role of student entrepreneurship in the Canadian economy
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As the global economy continues to rollercoaster, experts around the world are searching for solutions that will help their countries emerge thriving from the slump. Steve Farlow, executive director of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship, joined Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a roundtable discussion March 18 to speak about the role student entrepreneurship will play in creating a prosperous Canadian economy.
“It’s a simple fact that jobs are created in the entrepreneurial sector; new businesses means new jobs,” says Farlow, who is also a Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) board member and mentor. “It’s our students who are producing the new ventures that will contribute to the Canadian economy.”
Laurier’s Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship provides student entrepreneurs with a variety of opportunities to launch their businesses while earning their degrees, from undergraduate competitions and electives to the specially designed Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program for MBA students in the innovation and entrepreneurship option.
“It’s Laurier’s mission to take students who have the drive to own and operate their own business – entrepreneurship in their DNA as I like to say – and give them the relevant skill set to increase their chances of success,” says Farlow. “We make great strides to provide to the right tools: a strong core academic curriculum coupled with experiential learning.”
Paul Maxwell is one such student. While at Laurier he started Maxwell’s Music House, a place for musicians to practice, perform and teach lessons. When Maxwell graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, he received a loan from the CYBF, which allowed him to expand his business and hire employees.
The CYBF is a national charity that supports aspiring young entrepreneurs who have a great business idea but are finding it difficult to obtain financing or mentoring through traditional sources. In addition to providing coaching and business resources, the CYBF provides qualified entrepreneurs with up to $15,000 to help get their business off the ground. Since 1996, the CYBF has helped 2,700 young entrepreneurs, creating more than 14,000 jobs.
In a news conference following the roundtable, the prime minister spoke about the government’s Economic Action Plan, which includes a $10 million grant for the CYBF to generate businesses, jobs and revenue.
As a community partner of the CYBF, Laurier is well positioned to provide even greater support to young entrepreneurs. Farlow wants to see more of Laurier’s student entrepreneurs receive access to the CYBF program, and says it was important to share the university’s story with the prime minister so even more people will benefit.
“Universities and colleges across Canada are doing great things with entrepreneurship, and the CYBF funding is critical to the success of student entrepreneurs and the programs that support them,” says Farlow. “I think there is an opportunity to expand their services in this region in particular.”
Eight young entrepreneurs from all across Canada also participated in the roundtable, sharing their success stories. Farlow says the prime minister made it clear that he was impressed with the program, and interested in the students’ keys to success and what obstacles they had to overcome.
“It was great experience to meet our prime minister,” says Farlow, who sat next to Harper during the roundtable. “Everyone was scheduled to speak for only a few minutes but it became a much longer, more relaxed discussion.”