You’ve got to give props to the Ontario government for giving a hip new name to a project that is trying to appeal to youth today. I mean “Summer Company” as the name of the government program that will be helping post-secondary students set up a company during the summer – bet some intense committee-sitting and focus-grouping went into that one. In any case, Summer Company sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me, and a much more attractive option for a burgeoning entrepreneur with no painting experience than the College Pro Painters franchisee opportunity we looked at last week.
Summer Company’s website begins by boldly stating, “Go beyond your typical summer jobs: Turn your ideas into a business”. That sounds awesome. Reading on, the profile of the program reveals:
Do you have ideas for creating your own company this summer? If you’re a student 15-29 years old in Ontario, you can turn those ideas into a real business this summer. The Summer Company program provides up to $3,000, hands-on coaching and mentoring to help you start and operate your business.
If your application is accepted, you’ll be eligible to receive up to $1,500 and 12-hours of business training and mentoring to get you started. Upon successful completion of the program, you’ll receive up to $1,500 to return to school.
The possibilities for starting a company are endless. Summer Company helps you take your ideas and make them a reality. Student jobs don’t have to be boring: be your own boss and gain valuable business experience that will last you a lifetime.
The government website then gives some details on a student that created a profitable company that went door-to-door detailing vehicles, and several other highlighted graduates of the program. Now I should admit right up front that I have no firsthand experience with the program, so it could easily be a “government boondoggle” that just soaks up time and effort through mounds of paperwork. It doesn’t appear to deserve that label, as a positive mention from Maclean’s OnCampus author Josh Dehaas can attest.
Making the Entrepreneurial Leap
Setting up your own business might be the answer to some of the problems many young post-secondary students are having with finding gainful employment anywhere in the workplace right now. That being said, if earning money is your only concern, I don’t think running your own business is the quickest or most direct route to this goal. Options like tree planting or other manual labour jobs located far from urban centres are probably your best bet if maximizing the positive balance in your bank account is the main goal. Running your own business can obviously work out quite well, but most people that are responsible for their own business will attest to the fact that working long and demanding hours are just a fact of life. You can’t simply “punch a car” or blandly put in hours while your brain stays on cruise control.
Summer Company seems like a great opportunity to stretch your entrepreneurial legs in a low-risk environment. The few thousand bucks the government provides in “angel funding” takes away most of the possibility that you’ll lose your shirt over the summer and gives students the chance to get some cash-flow going before having to pay start-up costs (that they probably would have to put on high-interest credit cards or lines of credit in other circumstances). The other thing I noticed right away about the program is the access to twelve hours of mentoring. I would love to learn more about this if anyone would like to provide firsthand details about the setup. The constant refrain you hear from people who start their own companies is that someone to help you out and set you on the right path is vitally important. If the mentoring you would receive as part of Summer Company is of high quality, it is tough to put a dollar value on something so important – it might end up being the most valuable thing you receive from the program. Getting personalized help building an enviable skill set that is applicable to almost any career is a great opportunity.
One aspect of creating your own business that cannot be overlooked is the shine it can put on your résumé. If you’re someone in HR or administration screening several young potential employees with roughly equivalent education backgrounds (very common) something like setting up your own business can really set you apart from your peers. The reasoning behind this is quite simple – it’s really hard to do your own thing, so anyone that made a go of it gets a certain amount of respect from most people. Heck, I got props from interviewers simply for setting up a new position within a non-profit boxing club and successfully applying for government funding. That’s a lot easier than starting up your own gig, but it still communicated to people that I had some ambition, and several basic skill sets that can otherwise be hard to “test” for. You can also adapt the fact that you’ve created your own business to answer all of those BS interview scenarios interviewers like to ask such as, “Give as an instance or a time when X happened at your workplace and how your actions positively impacted the situation.” When you’ve ran your own show you can take that in directions you couldn’t if you were working under someone else’s banner.
Related: 10 Graduate Resume Tips
Running your own business for the summer isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a stress-free way to put a cheque in the bank every two weeks then I wouldn’t recommend trying your hand at this sort of thing. On the other hand there are some huge long-term benefits to getting an experience like this under your belt. If you are the type of independent/restless soul that thinks they might one day want to work for themselves, then Summer Company is a great opportunity to explore that option. Kudos to the Ontario Government for putting something like this together.