Regional Business Centre helps young entrepreneurs

Brittany Jefferson shows off the power box she painted as part of the Up Here festival. Beside her is Dawson Santerre, who launched his own yard maintenance company earlier this year. Both students said their businesses are flourishing. Mary Katherine Keown/The Sudbury Star

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At just 15 years old, Dawson Santerre has been busy this summer honing his business acumen.

The Macdonald-Cartier student enrolled in the Regional Business Centre’s summer entrepreneurship program, which helped him set up a small business and provided a little seed funding.

Santerre likes to be outside, so he turned his lawn-cutting hobby into a business and launched We Cut Grass, a yard maintenance and landscaping company. He said business this summer has been amazing.

“I’ve had clients booked all throughout the summer,” he said. “I’m working almost every day of the week.”

He is saving for a small truck, which he said will help him further grow his business (currently, Santerre’s mom has been driving him to jobs).

“I personally just don’t like the idea of working for someone else,” he said. “I wanted the experience of working by myself and I wanted to see what it was like to be independent, so I decided to start a company.”

Dawson Santerre spent his summer working. The 15-year-old was a participant in the Regional Business Centre’s Summer Company program, which provided hands-on training to young entrepreneurs. photo courtesy of the Regional Business Centre

Santerre has been pleased so far with the success of WCG (as he is known). He plans to continue with his venture and once he has a driver’s licence, he may add winter driveway maintenance to his roster.

“It’s fun, because I like to see things grow,” he said. “And I got to see my company grow. I’m proud of myself.”

Santerre was part of the Regional Business Centre’s Summer Company program, which provides young entrepreneurs (15-29 years old) with practical, hands-on training, business coaching and mentoring, as well as the opportunity to receive grants of up to $3,000. Santerre used his first installment of $1,500 to upgrade some of his existing equipment and to invest in new pieces for his business.

Santerre, who has a big smile and an engaging personality, said his client list includes several older ladies whose husbands have passed away. But he is not complaining; there are some perks.

“I’ve gotten a lot of lasagna,” he joked. “I think I’ve gained a lot of weight.”

Brad Senecal, an intern at the Regional Business Centre and the co-ordinator of the Summer Company program, said there were six students who participated this year. One young man, a licensed drone operator, set up a media creation company, while one young woman launched a paddle-painting business.

Ethan Gosselin launched 46* North Printing, custom-made Sudbury-inspired apparel, including T-shirts, hoodies and grocery bags.

Jacqueline Villeneuve, a public speaker, business owner and designer, used her involvement in Summer Company to grow her consulting business.

Finally, Brittany Jefferson founded Lümen Art and Illustration. Jefferson, 28, is an art and design student at Cambrian College, and she wanted a way to make a career of her passion.

She said August has been really busy.

“It’s been nice though, because I’ve been wanting to start this for a while. I didn’t feel like I had the tools to do it,” she said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Jefferson said she learned a lot from the Summer Company program. She suffers from agoraphobia, so the mentoring and networking opportunities proved invaluable.

“I’ve been coping well lately,” she said. “It’s been nice being able to get out there and meet people, and learn. We had a session on networking, which taught me a lot.”

Among Jefferson’s summer highlights were the portrait she drew for a client of late loved ones, and the hydro box she painted as part of the Up Here festival.

Participants of the program also learn about the nuts and bolts – taxes, bookkeeping, paperwork – of running a business. High school students must complete 280 hours to get the full $3,000, while post-secondary students must complete 420 hours of work. Both work out to about 35 hours per week.

“I get to see the people who’ve been saying, ‘this is what I want to do’,” Senecal said. “We get that opportunity to see it as well, especially with post-secondary students. I think a big thing with this program is that it gives you that real life experience.”

mkkeown@postmedia.com

Twitter: @marykkeown

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