When Curtis Shaw attended the first Algonquin Young Pros workshop in the fall of 2015, he was one of only two people there alongside founder David Paré. He had already been making his own origami-inspired earrings, but wasn’t completely confident in turning it into a business venture.
But after forming a partnership with fellow Young Pro and business administration student Nikita Khanna and receiving continual support from Paré during a 30-day trial Shopify membership, his online store, Folded Gems, won first place in the Young Pros Build a Better Business competition.
The win comes with a prize of an extended three-month Shopify license, a tour of the company’s head office, a day of free mentorship and a $250 cash prize.
“I had not marketed online before so this was really cool,” said Shaw. “I was stuck when it came to marketing online and this was an awesome step into online marketing.”
However, Shaw and Khanna weren’t the only ones to walk away as winners, with second place going to veteran entrepreneur Alison Doyle, and third to Camila Bousquet and former SA president Christina Miller.
Doyle, who is a student in the business management and entrepreneurship program, was perhaps the most surprising win.
“I never win things so I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” she said.
Doyle had already started her own clothing company, Cured2, when she decided to enter the competition halfway through. Unfortunately, because the business was established prior to the competition, Doyle had to come up with a new venture in order to participate.
She quickly settled on the idea of another clothing company and created her Shopify store H2eau and earned $102 after just 12 hours of hard work and lots of support from her fellow young pros.
“If you set your mind to things you can achieve quite a lot in just 12 hours,” said Doyle. “I’m pretty bad at self-leadership to be quite plain,” she later added.
Unlike Doyle, Bousquet and Miller, also business management and entrepreneurship students, didn’t have a product idea at first but decided to venture into selling homemade decorative bowls through their shop CR8DECOR. They teamed up after Miller had approached Bousquet and asked to partner up.
“I was so nervous going into it by myself,” said Miller. “I thought to myself, ‘I really don’t want to do another project by myself’.”
“I think we both have similar visions,” said Bousquet. “We both knew that it was a project we wanted to get done just to prove it to themselves.”
According to Paré, all three winners earned over $1,000 in sales by the end of the 30-day period. He announced the results of the competition following a presentation from successful entrepreneur Matthew Britt, co-founder of Let’s Hug It Out Promotions during the latest Young Pros workshop on April 7.
Britt has been working with Young Pros since October 2015 and spent the first half of the workshop inspiring more than 20 students to be effective leaders and create their own vision.
“Once you’ve created the life you’re looking for, it’s amazing,” said Britt. “I have no rules except the ones set by me.”
Britt – who had five failed businesses under his belt before finding success with Let’s Hug It Out Promotions – said that being an entrepreneur comes with its own unique set of challenges like lawsuits, financial problems and even isolation.
“It gets kind of lonely,” he said. “You can’t lead anyone else except yourself.”
He later added that a leader with a successful vision should not be affected by these obstacles and that the benefits of being an entrepreneur will make it all worth it in the end.