From selling gourmet ice cream sandwiches to custom rugs, the business opportunities offered under the Summer Company program are only limited by the imagination of a young entrepreneur.
“Summer Company is for students who want to ‘Be Their Own Boss’ this summer, anyone looking at a career in the trades—from hairstylists to carpenters—who might want to run their own business upon graduation, or someone looking to build their resume or college application by demonstrating entrepreneurship skills,” says Elizabeth Cornish, the managing consultant with Muskoka Small Business Centre, which administers the provincial program locally. “There are a lot of reasons students apply to be in the Summer Company program.”
Participants in the Summer Company program receive training, hands-on coaching, mentorship, and the opportunity to receive up to $3,000 in funding for their summer business. The program is available to students between the ages of 15-29 who are returning to school in the fall.
“Learning how to run your own student business is one of the best summer jobs you can have. You get to be your own boss while learning what it takes to manage a business,” says Cornish. “Sales, marketing, bookkeeping, customer relationship management, and networking are just a few of the highly useful skills you’ll develop.”
Locally the program has helped dozens of young entrepreneurs over the past 25 years.
Last year’s programs included young businesspeople marketing luxury cars, washing their customers’ machine parts, and carrying out dockside recycling services.
One of the more unique (and successful) ventures to get its start with the Summer Company was last summer’s BAR32.
During quarantine, Sydney Carron and her sister Chloe spent their time at home experimenting with an ice cream machine and molds. From there, Sydney created BAR32, an artisanal ice cream shop which operated out of a converted mobile trailer in Port Carling, as well as offering dockside delivery. Chloe, a previous Summer Company participant, helped Sydney with the business, manning the shop and offering advice.
“By the end of the summer they literally had people lining up to see what they had created on any given day,” says Cornish.
At the end of the summer, Sydney Carron won the Daniel Keane Entrepreneurial Legacy Award, following in the footsteps of her sister Charlotte, who won the same award in 2017.
The Daniel Keane Entrepreneurial Legacy Award was created in memory of a former Summer Company student, Daniel Keane, who died by suicide. The award and scholarship of $1,000, donated by Keane’s family, is presented to a Summer Company student in Muskoka who shows entrepreneurial spirit, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to community service, all of which were qualities that Daniel Keane exhibited.
“It’s a really special moment when the award is presented,” says Cornish. “Daniel’s mother said she had never seen him so happy as when he was running his business as part of the Summer Company and this award means a lot to her, to the Centre, and to the student who receives it.”
In addition to helping out young entrepreneurs financially, the award is also a way to raise the issue of teen suicide with students and parents and encourage them to reach out to their friends and family to check in and help them connect to local services if needed. Daniel’s mother hopes that removing the stigma around the issue of mental health will encourage young people to reach out and let someone know they are struggling.
Applications for the 2022 program will be accepted until May 20. Parents and students can learn more about Summer Company program eligibility and complete an application here, but Cornish encourages anyone interested to contact her directly if they have questions or would like some help or advice.
“I’m happy to talk to any student who has an idea but isn’t sure if the program is for them or how they should go forward with it,” she says.
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