A closer look at LaunchPad

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Wilfrid Laurier University in the past few years has developed a program for student entrepreneurial experiences called the Laurier LaunchPad Program.

In conjunction with the university and local businesses such as Google and Communitech, the program offers a way in which students, while gaining course credit towards a degree, can engage with a community of professionals to help promote their ideas and products.

Steve Farlow, the executive director for the Schlegal Centre for Entrepreneurship, considers the program to be an excellent way for students to start thinking about their business models through practical applications.

“Our mission is to allow for every student to gain the experience for future entrepreneurship opportunities,” he said.

Farlow also pointed out that entrepreneurship is not just about the inclination for economic growth, but also positive social opportunities that connect businesses with the community.

“Entrepreneurship is a mindset to be creative and build things, including social enterprises,” he said. “The mindset of changing the world is a part of what bright, young people do through these kinds of opportunities.”

“It’s not just about profitable businesses, we also welcome not-for-profit business ideas. We are interested as well in promoting social endeavours that help benefit the community at large. The important part is to identify if the business is scalable and possible.”

Being in its third year,  the program has grown, moving from 40 students last year to 80 this year. Situated within the Tannery Building in Kitchener, Farlow sees the building and the program as the natural evolution of Laurier as a university.

“It really is Laurier’s newest campus. It features within it recent Laurier students and alumni working together to create something unique,” Farlow said. “It truly is a distinctive experience for students to engage in.”

One of the start-up businesses  currently found in the  LaunchPad program is  called Mycareercity.com, a venture by Eugene Osel, co-founder and CEO, and fellow co-founders, Aliya O’Silva and Steehen Amoah.

“It’s going to be active in the new year,” Osel said. “It will connect people with start-up businesses both in Kitchener-Waterloo and across Canada, with already 50 businesses on board.”

“The social mission is to end youth unemployment crisis.”

Osel said that being a part of the LaunchPad program has been a “catalyst” for the development of the company.

“It has allowed us the access to legal professionals, mentors, as well as the Laurier LaunchPad sessions, which are bi-weekly meetings with people in academia and the community who are providing feedback,” Osel said.

“We can take the feedback in and apply it to our business model.”

Osel believes that the program is excellent for the school at large in how it provides experience outside of the classroom.

“It screams opportunity because students think about ideas but don’t know how to take it to next step. The LaunchPad program offers huge support for a lot of prospective businesses and provides a gateway for new jobs and people to create new businesses.”

The LaunchPad program also has ties to the University of Waterloo and specifically its Accelerator Centre. In the past, LaunchPad companies like The Smile Epidemic found success through the partnership. Farlow sees the program as “promoting meaningful business ideas.”

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