Read all about the 2019 startGBC Summer Camp

On Monday, the 2019 startGBC Summer Camp cohort was welcomed by Neal Lilliott, Manager, startGBC, who set the stage for the camp by discussing desirable entrepreneurial qualities, most notably the ability to pivot and be agile. This year’s summer camp was made up of a record of 22 participants, all of whom are either current GBC students or GBC alumni. The cohort gained the opportunity to learn from 41 professionals who graciously gave their time to our budding entrepreneurs.

For our first official session, we welcomed JC Jeffrey, VP Food & Drink, Scottish Development International. We delved into the topic of human assumptions and the ability to identify a problem and how entrepreneurs need to offer solutions. The summer camp participants learned how to further develop their business idea by thinking about the problem they are wanting to solve by crafting a mission statement as well as a vision statement. Participants were challenged to think of what their business would look like and its purpose.

Next, the Summer Camp greeted Brad Furtney, President, Fieldpoint, to lead a session on Entrepreneur Leadership Skills. Brad expanded on the importance of leadership and direction within a business for its success. Businesses should strive to achieve a ‘One Company Mindset’ to ensure that everyone in the company is working towards the same goal. This is done by encouraging diverging points of view instead of surrounding yourself with ‘yes’ people. Brad drove home this idea with the statement “You don’t build a business. You build the people and they build the business.” Finally, Brad was kind enough to share the entrepreneur books that have had an amazing impact on him and recommended them to the camp. These included Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, Mindset by Carol Dweck, and The Leadership Contract by Vince Molinard.

For the last session of the day, Kenny Bahia, Consultant, and GBC alumni lent his expertise to our budding entrepreneurs by helping them craft a business model canvas and provided a high-level overview of a business plan. Crafting a business model canvas helped the camp identify the various segments at play in their business. Once again, by focusing on the value proposition, the camp participants were challenged to narrow down the problem their product will solve.

As day 2 of the camp kicked off, Guy Matorin, UX Director at Solvers and GBC alumni, gave a great session on product validation. In this extensive session, Guy explained the importance of validating a product, citing the lack of as the main cause as to why many businesses fail. The Summer Camp learned about the various ways to research business activity, competitors, and develop strategies for market validation. Guy showcased how simple tools such as SurveyMonkey can go a long way in collecting minimal viable evidence (MVE). Additional tools such as MoSCoW can be utilized to develop a lean minimum viable product (MVP) and ultimately help you get to market quicker.

The second session of the day was facilitated by Eli Yufest, CEO, Campaign Research. Eli shared his valuable experience in Customer Validation Research to help our participants get an understanding of how consumers might view their product compared to their competitors. Eli explained that while data may show a consumer preference or dislike of a product, it is equally important to gain insights into the data to explain trends in the market.

We finished off the day with a dynamic presentation from Navid Momeni, VP Sales, Jrop and George Brown College alumni, covering the topic of Creating Effective Sales. Navid highlighted the importance of identifying your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) by clearly capturing the problem you are looking to solve, it’s impact on customers and the root cause of the problem. The camp participants learned that the best way to successfully sell their product is to always remind their consumers the solution that they are providing to them and, ultimately, how they will benefit by using their product.

Day 3 of the camp centered on legal literacy required when starting a business. Deborah Pinkus, Associate Partner, Oziel Law gave the camp a brief overview of the legal requirements when setting up a business. Deborah explained the implications involved with sole proprietorship as well as incorporating a business. By going over the benefits and potential downsides of both, the camp participants were able to think about which model best fits their own business.

Next, the camp held a session for the Legal Requirements of Social Enterprises facilitated by Marisol Fornoni, Fundraising Specialist, Joint Development Collective. Marisol was gracious enough to give our participants great resources to utilize if setting up a social enterprise. Marisol, further, highlighted how social enterprises are structured differently than a for-profit business and ultimately how to develop a successful socially conscious business.

Following lunch, Tony Orsi, and Meghan Dillon, Partners, Bereskin Parr LLP spoke about Intellectual Property regarding the various ways our entrepreneurs can protect their product and their name. The Summer Camp participants learned about copyrights, trademarks, industrial design protection, trade secrets protection and patents. Tony and Meghan gave a very insightful presentation and answered a multitude of questions asked by the participants.

The day was capped off by a session on Understanding Contracts which was facilitated by Clausehound. As we all know, understanding various contracts and its jargon can be very difficult, Clausehound offers a brilliant tool to help understand complex contracts. The session began with an overview of the major differences in contracts that our entrepreneurs will face such as a Partnership Agreement versus an Indemnity Agreement, and a Bill of Sale contract versus a Purchase Order contract. Lastly, Clausehound put our camp participants to the test in an immersive activity to practice their contract understanding and negotiating skills.

On the fourth day of the camp, the participants were able to put the skills that they had acquired during the camp to practice in a session held by Sima Gandhi, CEO, Innovator Lab. Sima spent the day with the camp covering Value Propositions and Crafting an Elevator Pitch. The workshop began with identifying the entrepreneur’s value proposition. Sima highlighted the need to identify who your product is targeted to, what value will the consumer derive from it? When identifying your value proposition, it is important to only make claims that differentiate you from your competitors, your consumers must understand why they should choose your product and ultimately, who you are as an entrepreneur. Sima spent time with the camp participants to help them craft their pitch, starting with understanding the criteria required when crafting a pitch. Through storytelling, highlighting the problem that the product will solve, showcasing their ‘magic’ and finally clearly asking for what they are wanting to get as a result of the pitch, the participants were able to practice their pitches in anticipation for next weeks Pitch to the Mentors!

On Friday, the startGBC Entrepreneur Summer Camp was hosted by the CNE Innovation Garage. This gave the camp participants the amazing opportunity to engage with early-stage startups and learn about their journey. This provided the camp with a great opportunity to learn from other marketing, packaging, and messaging strategies and even their challenges to see how they could incorporate them into their strategies. Next, the summer camp was able to attend the CNE pitch competition. Again, this provided our entrepreneurs with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the entrepreneurial environment and understand the caliber that they should be at when pitching their own business. Once again, the camp participants were able to analyze the presenter’s techniques, strong points, and even weaknesses to reflect on how they can improve their skills. Overall it was a great day in which the Summer Camp participants were able to connect with fellow startups and gain an understanding of what the next steps will look like for them.

Week 2

Following an eventful first week, the startGBC Entrepreneur Summer Camp kicked off the second and final week of the camp with a day jam-packed of Funding and Financial Literacy. For the first session of the day Sofiane Belgadi, CEO, Lozard Groupbroached the topic of what investors are looking for. Sofiane shared some expert insights on the mindset of an investor and how our budding entrepreneurs should prepare when approaching investors. Sofiane discussed the importance of showing your business traction and creating a buzz around yourself in hopes of attracting investors. By the end of the workshop, the Summer Camp had a clearer understanding of what investors will expect from them.

Next, we welcomed Peter Bandas, Innovation Advisor, NRC. Peter facilitated a workshop on Accessing Public Funds. The session showcased the various requirements that entrepreneurs must meet when applying for various funds which is very important and increasingly difficult as public funding continues to experience cuts. Essentially, the government wants to see a high level of commitment and dedication to ensure that money being invested into the business will generate a return on investment (ROI).

We finished off the morning with 2 workshops hosted by Ryan Hollinrake, Executive Director, Access Community Capital Fund and Sarah Pick, Business Development Manager, Futurpreneur. Access Community Capital Fund is an early stage lender who operates on a character-based lending assessment. If Access deems a business at risk and are unable to invest in them, Access will help the entrepreneur to get to a point where people will feel confident investing in them by helping them build credit, or even in creating a business plan. This allows early-stage startups to access funds a little quicker. Similarly, Futurpreneur is also an early-stage lender that removes some of the barriers and requirements for borrowing funds. Futurpreneur collaborates with the BDC to offer up to $60,000 in funding. More so, Sarah took the Summer Camp that can be accessed via the Futurpreneur site such as the online business plan tool and the cash flow tool that is an excellent resource for early-stage financial forecasting.

The day ended with an in-depth presentation by Rob Hong, CEO, and Rob Hall, Consultant, Sapling Financial. Rob and Rob facilitated a Financial Literacy Bootcamp which provided vital information regarding a startups financial model, the best way to evaluate a company to attract investors and how much cash should be raised. Having a proper modeling forecasts are very important for startups when approaching investors as new businesses don’t have past statements to rely on and show their worth. While understanding financial language that relates to a startups specific industry is crucial, making a favorable first impression with investors is as important and relies on more than just financial literacy. A solid first impression also depends on an entrepreneur’s professional appearance and demeanor.

On Tuesday, August 27th, the Summer Camp spent the day learning about branding, media, marketing, and effective networking. We started the day with an insightful presentation from Lilija Spiglazovaite, Client Solutions Manager, Facebook. Lilija showcased Facebook’s extensive global reach. Facebook, as well as Instagram, are instrumental for startups in building their brand and online presence. Lilija also explained how paid ads on Facebook or Instagram are simple ways to add value to a business.

For the second workshop of the day, the startGBC Summer Camp welcomed Jillian Butler, Knowledge Coordinator, GBC Research & Innovation. Jillian led a dynamic workshop covering the basics of building a brand and the day to day realities entrepreneurs will face when dealing with media, vendors, and partners. Jillian provided insider tips to designing a logo, what to get when ordering a logo package and how to get the perfect headshot.

For the final session of the morning, Nesh Pillay, Founder, Press Pillay hosted a session on Public Relations and How to Garner Media Attention. PR is an important part of running any business. Nesh revealed the power of telling an effective story about and to be constantly innovating. Simply owning a startup is not necessarily front-page news, entrepreneurs must find creative ways to put themselves and their brands out there to gain public traction. As always, Nesh emphasized that no PR is bad PR.

Following lunch, Natasha Kvitka, Digital Marketing Specialist, gave an in-depth talk regarding digital marketing strategies and how various channels complement each other. Natasha illustrated ways organic and paid searches, social media marketing, and advertising can help bolster an online presence. Businesses must walk a thin line of interacting sufficiently with their consumers while also being conscious of not spamming them.

The Summer Camp finished off the day with a fun and dynamic workshop covering Business Networking and Relationship Building facilitated by Eloise Ashworth and Raif Douthwaite, Co-founders, Speak On Your Feet. The Summer Camp participants spent the rest of the afternoon up on their feet interacting with each other and practicing various techniques to make meaningful impressions, work a room and ultimately work on their self-confidence. The ability to make strong connections and network with a diverse crowd is essential for any entrepreneur.

On the 28th, the Summer Camp spent the day focusing on workshops focusing on digital literacy, starting with Natasha Sawires, Guru, Shopify. Natasha showed the camp the ease and simplicity of Canadian brand Shopify. Shopify is the world’s leading e-commerce platform to start and grow a business. Its ease of use allows businesses to design and set up a website without any background in coding or design and without spending a fortune on developers. Themes and templates offer a multitude of options that allows businesses to make their websites appealing to customers.

Esther Friedberg Karp, Trainer, Intuit Quickbooks led the next workshop and demonstrated how to get started and organize business financials easily through Quickbooks. Quickbooks also offers an array of integrative app functions including online payment systems which allows users to customize their use of Quickbooks. Ultimately Quickbooks allows businesses to limit their unbillable time spent entering expenses. The amount of time and thus cost that Quickbooks can save a business offers an amazing ROI when presenting a business’s financial information to an accountant.

Following this session, Darryl Jullot, Senior Manager, Digital Main Street gave an extremely informative workshop delving into the topic of Digital Supports to Fuel Growth. Darryl shared an exhaustive list with participants an amazing list of software applications that can help support our entrepreneurs as they begin to develop their business and online presence.

Next, the Summer Camp welcomed Toronto startup Bookmark and Chief Marketing Officer Nicole Kosmayer. Nicole introduced their amazing website builder which uses Artificial Intelligence to build a website in a matter of minutes! While Bookmark can create beautiful websites at a low cost, Nicole stressed the importance for our entrepreneurs to build an online presence. The easiest way to do so is to register their business with Google and push to get as many reviews as possible to gain traction.

Lastly, Alberto Richards, COO, JACL Inc., and GBC alumni, provided the summer camp with an excellent overview of what to expect if they build an app for their business. Apps are very expensive to build and can also be very time-consuming. For this reason, Alberto suggested that if a startup does not need an app right away to operate, they should wait for their operations to pass their watershed years where they will likely start to have enough capital to finance an app. Alberto and his team delivered an engaging workshop ensuring that even the non-techies in the room understood, and everyone walked away with a clearer understanding of the complexities behind building an app.

On Thursday, August 29th, the startGBC Summer Camp was lucky enough to spend the day touring and learning all about the Toronto Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. The day started with a stop at the City of Toronto Business Services. The Camp was greeted by Sandi Koitsis-Zigomanis, Small Business Advisor at Enterprise Toronto. Sandi highlighted the various training sessions, incorporation assistance, business plan reviews and licensing information that Enterprise Toronto has to offer.

Next, the Summer Camp stopped by Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) and was hosted by Juliesa Adolphus. DMZ is one of the world’s most successful incubators today. Supporting a critical mass of digital companies while also being closely connected with complementary incubators, the DMZ is a large part of what makes Toronto’s tech sector so vibrant. 
For the third stop of the day, the summer camp was hosted by Alaa Alba at Artscape Daniels Launchpad. Just down the street from the startGBC Collaboration Space at Waterfront Campus, Artscape is Toronto’s newest entrepreneur incubator supporting numerous industries including jewelry, fabrication, music and creative arts.

Lastly, the Summer Camp learned about GBC’s entrepreneurial hubs including the GBC Digital Media & Gaming Incubator within the School of Design which supports GBC students and Alumni in their entrepreneurial journey. Then, Dr. Krista Holmes, Director, GBC Research & Innovation, showcased the numerous exchanges and collaborations that can be done through the College to support the growth of SME’s.

Later, in the evening startGBC hosted the Entrepreneur Summer Social powered by DELL Technologies and Louis Cifer Brew Works. It was a fun evening in which present and past GBC entrepreneurs were able to connect and share ideas. startGBC mentors were also in attendance showing their continued support for startGBC and budding GBC entrepreneurs. The night proved itself to be an excellent place for like-minded individuals to discuss and network.

On the last day of the 2019 startGBC Entrepreneur Summer Camp, JC Jeffrey moderated a #WhyNotMe panel of 3 GBC alumni entrepreneurs. The Camp had the pleasure of hearing from 3 GBC – Aisha Addo, Founder & CEO, Drive Her, Erin Gamelin, Founder & CEO, Louis Cifer Brew Works, and Stout Irish Pub, as well as Darren Sampson, Co-founder & CEO, Odds. All 3 offered our cohort valuable candid insights on their journeys leaving the camp participants with a lot to look forward to on their roads ahead.

Finally, the Summer Camp held its last workshop “Pitch It!”. The camp cohort had the opportunity to take everything they had learned in the past 2 weeks and put it to the test in a 3-minute pitch to a panel of startGBC mentors Erin Gamelin, Sofiane Belgadi and JC Jeffrey. The panel gave our budding entrepreneur’s detailed feedback regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their pitch. The camp participants left this workshop feeling more confident in their pitching skills and gained a better understanding of how they can continue to improve their business ideas.

The day was capped off as Dr. Krista Holmes presented each participant with a Certificate of Participation as each participant will also receive a LinkedIn badge for having attended the startGBC Entrepreneur Summer Camp.

Once again, congratulations to the 2019 startGBC Entrepreneur Summer Camp cohort! A MASSIVE THANK YOU, once more to all of our guest speakers that supported the program by giving their time and providing the participants with such knowledgeable insights. Finally, thanks to George Brown College for making this opportunity possible for budding entrepreneurs, free of cost!