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Innovation Insights: Canadian Youth Entrepreneurship Fund - innovate niagara

Innovation Insights: Canadian Youth Entrepreneurship Fund


Building my professional network, particularly in Niagara and Toronto, within the business community accelerated my learning and understanding of business and entrepreneurship.


Throughout my education I knew my greatest strengths and interests were in creative projects, presentations, and group activities. And in grade 11 after reading The Secret to Success by Eric Thomas, I discovered my passion for entrepreneurship.

That year I applied for an internship in New York City through the Discovery Internship program and was accepted to work with a startup for the summer. I fell in love with the culture, work, and practical learning that came with this experience.

During the last two years I have participated in the DSBN Entrepreneurship Co - Op, St. Catharines Small Business Enterprise Center’s Summer Company program, and worked for Curexe, a startup based out of the DMZ incubator in Toronto, ON.

Building my professional network, particularly in Niagara and Toronto, within the business community accelerated my learning and understanding of business and entrepreneurship.

Without my parents, mentors, and vice principal I never would have believed I had the ability to pursue my goals and act on my ideas. My vision of entrepreneurship has always been about choosing to take an alternative approach to learning and therefore, I wanted to offer other students the opportunity to create their own learning paths. This idea inspired me to develop the Canadian Youth Entrepreneurship Fund (CYEF).

The CYEF offers secondary students the opportunity to apply for micro grants to kick start their entrepreneurial initiatives throughout their co-op term or as an extracurricular pursuit. Providing students with this opportunity will generate exposure to experiential learning as well as the opportunity to build and cultivate professional relationships. Not only will students focus on bringing their ideas to market, they will gain practical experience with access to community networking events, workshops and mentorship.

The CYEF will supplement traditional education offered in the classroom. This project will offer students who benefit from practical, hands-on experience, the opportunity to gain insight into the advancement and progressive business world in which we live. This project will also aid in preparing students for the constantly changing job market students will enter upon graduating from secondary and post-secondary institutions.

Students who are interested in applying for the grants will participate in a multi-stage application process where they will fill out an online questionnaire, engage in a professional phone interview and a pitch-style presentation to provide proof of concept, go-to-market strategy, and a daily action plan. Throughout the school year they will be required to maintain detailed activity logs and attend workshops and bi-weekly meetings to discuss their projects with our mentorship committee.

Because of partnerships with the Education Foundation, District School Board of Niagara and ihub, and sponsorship from Innovate Niagara, Meridian Credit Union, Biolinc, Pen Financial Credit Union, Niagara Addiction Services, the Thornton Group of Companies, and The Shield Fire and Security, we can pilot CYEF in Niagara during the 2017/18 academic year.

Justin Kuhn is the founder of the Canadian Youth Entrepreneurship Fund. He is in his first year of studies at George Brown College and Ryerson University’s Startup School.

This article originally appeared in The Business Link Niagara.