Written by David Silverberg

It can be overwhelming for a budding entrepreneur to be comfortable running a business. Besides finding the money to launch the business, other considerations begin to pile up, from inventory to e-commerce solutions to marketing to building confidence.

That's where Toronto's Summer Company Program comes in: it helps young people between 15 and 29 start and manage their own summer business by providing funding, advice and services. 

This program goes beyond what a summer job can offer Toronto youth. Students get hands-on training from acclaimed business leaders, financial support with awards up to $3,000, and the opportunity to determine if they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

“I've always wanted to start my own swimming business,” says Brandon Law, who joined the Summer Company Program to help launch his business The Law of Swimming. “I create a customized swim curriculum which incorporates strengthening exercises to improve on the student's weakness and drills which break up complex movements.”

He goes on to say how the Summer Company Program “gave me a financial safety net I wouldn't have had otherwise, since I have to pay for tuition.”

His company provides swimming classes to North York residents during the summer months, due to Law taking classes at McMaster University during the school year. “A lot of my students come to me after having a negative experience with large swimming service providers,” Law notes. “They often complain about how there is hardly any time to swim during their group lessons and that their lesson format is fairly repetitive.”

Mozie Elmaleh echoes Law regarding the value of joining the Summer Company Program, which gave him crucial advice via the mentors offering tips to students. His business, Riverlea Glass, aims to outfit homeowners with specialized glass inserts on front doors. “I learned a lot about developing digital skills over that summer,” Elmaleh recalls. “That helped me find ways to make our business model more efficient.”

Funmi Oyapero, who launched her beauty product company Goddess Girl Cosmetics after enroling in the Summer Company Program, admits she was nervous during the interview to apply for the program and was later overjoyed she got to fine-tune her business skills during those inspiring months.

“I like that I'm able to start my own business, and I feel confident now,” she says.

Her confidence stems from figuring out what she wanted to sell. “I'm obsessed with lip gloss so why not focus on something I know about?” she says. Her product line-up hasn't stayed static in the short time it's been online; Goddess Girl has expanded to include mink lashes and brushes.

Elmaleh says he appreciates the seed funding to help propel his business off the ground. “To have that money really got the gears moving, to get things like uniforms and building our online system,” he says.

Since 2001, the program has assisted more than 7,000 students realize their business visions, turning dreams into reality. The program enables entrepreneurs to become job creators, rather than job seekers, something these students are cherishing today.

StartUp Spotlight on: Summer Company

Learn about the young entrepreneurs who started businesses through Summer Company, an entrepreneurship training and funding program jointly supported by the City of Toronto and the province of Ontario


Photo credit Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real