Dozens of colleges and universities from all over the country gathered at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 2 for the opening round of competition at the annual Enactus Canada National Exposition.
The building was a buzz with eager, young entrepreneurs looking to wow the judges with their innovative community programs and businesses aimed at empowering people in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way.
There were 2,659 participating students from 64 academic institutions with 288 team projects. In total, the students created 891 businesses and impacted more than 36,000 people.
I sat in on League B—one of 10 Leagues—where six schools presented their ideas to a panel of judges in hopes of advancing to the semi-final round of competition.
Enactus University of New Brunswick, who only started their projects three months ago, created Spring Up, an annual community clean up initiative, to rid the streets of Fredericton of garbage and waste, and empower students to take care of the environment.
Their second program is a consultation project called Breeze where they consult with start-up companies and take them where they want to be using a subway system. They give them guidance and advice and help them locate necessary resources.
In three months, they created an economic impact of $2,350 and diverted 2.3 metric tonnes of refuge from local landfills.
Enactus StFX’s Michelin Consulting Project was created in response to the closing down of the Michelin Tire factory, which left more than 500 people unemployed. Enactus StFX saw this as an opportunity to form a professional consulting group and work with applicants who were missing little things on their applications but otherwise had excellent business ideas. They helped entrepreneurs develop business plans to access funds provided by Michelin. They provided financial strategies, marketing ideas, and growth projections.
The team also opened an on-campus consignment store called X-Denn to solve the problem of students throwing out valuable items, like mini fridges or coffee makers, which can be reused and sold. The store acts as an employer for students and a place where they can purchase affordable items. The team takes 25 per cent from each sale and puts it towards funding employment for a student in financial need. They collected more than $2,500 in recycled goods.
Enactus StFX wanted to address the food insecurity students face as a result of the growing cost of fruits and vegetables so they created a greenhouse initiative. They currently have three raised beds to grow foods and raised $150 at a local market. All of the money is put towards buying new soil and fertilizers.
Enactus Nova Social Community College wanted to change food insecurity among youths. They started the Pictou County Roots for Youths program where they provide three hot meals, temporary accommodations, daily drop-in sessions, and counselling and advocacy. They teach them how to plant, harvest, and preserve vegetables as a way to empower them to put food on the table. The team also offers workshops that teach youths cooking and business skills.
The team has the Dress For Your Future program every year to teach students how to professionally dress for job interviews. They also host a career fair and invite local businesses to provide possible employment for their students. In one year they have impacted 694 people, raised $1,500, completed three projects, and have two ongoing fundraisers.
Enactus Concordia’s four projects generated $5,000 in profits and impacted more than 500 people.
Their RISE (Raising Interest in Student Entrepreneurs) program aims to foster young entrepreneurs through various workshops, and providing them with the knowledge needed to succeed as an entrepreneur, like the basic steps of creating a business plan or how to sell yourself and your business ideas.
The team created the Reviv program because they wanted to help artists create more economic opportunities. Through Reviv, they collected five tonnes of recyclable materials for artists to use to create ecofriendly and affordable furniture. All the profits, which amounted to $3,000 in presales, go back to the artists to provide them with some income.
Envision is a project aimed at providing women in shelters with resources to help them become financially independent. Through a two-phase program, women are taught basic financial knowledge and apply it in real life business situations through candle making workshops. All the profits from the candles are given back to the women.
Finally, their Greenovation project is currently working with the Fulford residence to grow fruits and vegetables all year long to encourage their elderly residents to be more active in their community so they won’t experience social isolation.
Enactus St. Lawrence College was a finalist at last year’s competition. This year they introduced Spark, a media production house that connects students eager for business experience with companies who need their knowledge and expertise. Their collaboration with different businesses helped the business increase their online presence and gave students hands-on experience.
The Manage Your Money program has been around the college for seven years, but they recently extended the program to include incarcerated offenders, where they saw a need for financial education for soon-to-be released inmates. Students teach inmates how to face their financial responsibilities. Thirty-five inmates have graduated from the program and Enactus St. Lawrence College is working to get inmates access to open their own bank accounts.
Their Manage Your Energy program is a series of interactive workshops that teaches people tips and tricks on how to save their energy consumption.
Grounds to Heat is a program that transforms coffee ground waste into energy. The coffee waste goes into a pelleting process to create biomass coffee pellets, which is then used to heat classrooms at the college. So far, the students have collected 320 tons of coffee waste to-date.
Enactus Acadia University wanted to address Wolfville’s poverty rate by creating the Buddies in Business program that focuses on providing support to entrepreneurs with intellectual disabilities. They offer one-day training workshops to teach businesses to students to help them become consultants to the entrepreneurs.
Flip the Switch is a program that teaches youths the importance of reducing energy consumption. Their goal is to help empower younger generation and their families to raise social, environmental, and economical consequences.
Break the Chain is a project created to educate members of the community in how to be financially independent and financially stable for years to come. They worked with and trained a small number of food bank clients to develop financial literacy workshops they can deliver themselves.
League B winners moving on to semi-final round: Enactus Concordia and Enactus St. Lawrence College. Competition wraps up on May 4.