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Summer Institute opens again for business

Calling all student entrepreneurs: the Summer Institute is now accepting applications.

The Summer Institute is a program at UNB that offers everyone 19 or older a chance to design and start their own business.

“It’s a three-month entrepreneurship accelerator, and we focus on businesses that wouldn’t qualify for venture capital. What we’re trying to do is fill gaps in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the province,” said the Summer Institute’s coordinator, Gracen Johnson.

The program takes place on UNB campus from May 4 to July 31. No fee is required to take part in the program and basic living costs are covered by the institute over the summer.

“We help people that want to start businesses that are not maybe going to be huge businesses, but are going to provide employment for themselves and maybe a few other people,” said Johnson.

This is only the second year that the Summer Institute has been offering this program.

“Last year was a pilot. Nothing like this has been done before. New Brunswick primarily focuses on helping tech businesses,” said Dhirendra Shukla, chair of the J. Herbert Smith Centre of Technology Management and Entrepreneurship.

Despite being relatively new to Fredericton, the Summer Institute has had several success stories, including the clothing company Wear Your Label.

“They have a fashion company looking to create clothing that makes you feel really good and fights the stigmas around mental health and encourages positive conversation,” Johnson said.

All of Wear Your Label’s clothing is designed by individuals experiencing mental illness.

“They finished the program last year, did really well throughout the program, and decided that they wanted to graduate into a downtown location. In doing so they’ve actually helped develop this shared office space for a number of creative and self-employed people in town,” said Johnson.

Anna Mathis, a fiber artist, is another success story. She has been featured in several art exhibitions and has begun selling her work.

The goal of the institute is to offer opportunities to upcoming businesses that aren’t focused on technology, but rather art and culture.

“Most people don’t give arts much credit. When everyone is being critical, I want to be the one to embrace the arts,” Shukla said.

“There’s so many opportunities out there for people that have a tech start-up … and there aren’t that many opportunities for people who want to start a regular old business,” said Johnson. “These are the places that define every city in the whole world — like, Picaroons has completely changed Fredericton,” she said.

A key part of the program is to teach young entrepreneurs how to run a business, rather than have somebody run one for them.

“We created this culture of support with everyone helping each other to push them ahead and forward,” said Shukla. “I just want to make sure, as we make changes, that we don’t lose that.”

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