Gearing up for the best summer ever – with Summer Company

Feb 28, 2023

While calling March “beach weather” might be more than a stretch for us here in Ottawa, it’s the perfect time of year for young entrepreneurs to start thinking about making this the best summer ever.

Applications are now open to join the 2023 cohort of Summer Company, a program that gives students the opportunity and the know-how to run their own business and be their own boss over the summer months.

And as we prepare to welcome another group of students looking to learn how to put their business ideas into action over the summer, we’d like to take the opportunity to share a snapshot of a few businesses that were brought to life last summer, with the hopes of inspiring a few hopeful entrepreneurs to be part of this year’s cohort.

An intro to Summer Company

A student from the 2022 cohort of the Summer Company program receives his diploma at a graduation ceremony at Invest Ottawa

If this is your introduction to Summer Company, the program was created in 2001 by the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation to help young people between 15 and 29 years old start and run their own business during the summer break.

Thanks to funding provided by the Ontario Government, the program is still going strong today and continues to be an incredible opportunity for young entrepreneurs with winning business ideas.

Through Summer Company, students get access to:

  • Potential awards of up to $3,000 to start and run their own summer business (up to $1,500 to cover start-up costs and an additional payment of up to an additional $1,500 once they’ve successfully completed the program)
  • Hands-on business coaching
  • Mentorship from leaders in the community
  • Access to a community of entrepreneurial peers

On top of it all, students earn valuable experience developing, launching and running their own summer business, and get to keep any profits generated by your business operation – making it truly the best summer job ever.

Get inspired by Summer Company 2022 graduates

A Summer Company student holding their crochet created product.

There’s no better way to showcase this program’s impact on the graduating entrepreneurs than to hear it from them.

So, without delay, continue below to hear how this program helped emerging entrepreneurs launch their own business idea over the summer.

Venika Sem – GenesAce

Venika Sem - Owner of GenesAce - holds up journal covers featuring original designs, handmade from 100% recyclable paper. GenesAce journal covers captivate customers with original designs handmade from 100% recyclable paper.

According to owner Venika Sem, this incorporates what she learned from the Summer Company Social Enterprise workshop.

“The key is to have customers and beneficiaries,” she explained. “And if the planet benefits from it, we all do.”

Venika says she was driven to start GenesAce during the summer to enable others to “learn the unlearned power of writing.”

According to her, with the guidance of her inspirational mentor and after multiple workshops, she’s looking forward to keeping her business running while at school and working with local charities and organizations to make a positive impact in her community.

“Invest Ottawa made my dreams come true,” she said.

“The Summer Company Program helped me improve not only my entrepreneurial skills and my understanding of business but also my character. I’ve learned that hard work, collaboration, and perseverance make it possible to accomplish the impossible.”

“I saw my business growing like a tree and bearing fruit,” she added. “I planted the seeds, but all that water, sun, and trimming came from my mentor and those incredible workshops.”

Hakan Khan – RxPal

After watching his mother spend an entire day struggling to refill her pill planner each month, only to be left exhausted and still missing doses, 19-year-old student Hakan Khan knew there had to be a solution to help.

Summer Company 2022 graduate Hakan Khan at work with his product. After discovering through his research how many people around the world struggled to follow and keep up with their prescriptions, he founded RxPal – the affordable, smart pill-dispensing home robot designed to support anyone struggling with ‘medical adhesion.’

Driven by his entry into Summer Company, Hakan purchased a 3D printer and rapidly iterated through eight major redesigns to create a working prototype that he could fit the necessary electronics into.

And with the help of his Summer Company mentor, he was able to find the right product software architecture.

Hakan said he would continue operating his company part-time after the summer, as he joins the Software Engineering program at Carleton University – and said he’s looking forward to the day when RxPal is available in pharmacies across Canada.

Ayesha Iqbal: Ottawa Hot Stuff

Owner of Ottawa Hot Stuff, and Summer Company graduate Ayesha Iqbal standing in front of a sign with contact information.

Having recently completed a plant biology course at the University of Ottawa, Ayesha Iqbal was well equipped to found Ottawa Hot Stuff – a business using hydroponics to grow rare specialty peppers in nutrient-rich oxygenated water solution instead of soil.

Her knowledge in plant growth and plant development allowed her to design and construct a custom hydroponics set-up, resulting in maximum pepper yields and allowing her to sell rare and exotic peppers typically unavailable in the Ottawa area, including Candy Cane, Ghost, Trinidad Scorpion, Ring of Fire, Pumpkin, Lemon Drop and Habanero.

Ayesha said the business learnings from the Summer Company program were instrumental in helping her turn her passion into a business.

“While making sales was a fun part of the program, the knowledge I gained as part of Summer Company was truly invaluable,” she said.

“Each of the mentors during the workshops were willing to work with us and address questions specific to our businesses. These rich resources made it easy to incorporate what I learned from the workshops within my business.”

Still have questions about Summer Company?

Join us for an upcoming information session where you’ll have a chance you have your burning questions answered.

Know a student with a business idea?
Encourage them to sign up for Summer Company today!

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