Hopeful entrepreneurs looking to develop their idea into a venture can find many resources at UNB’s Summer Institute.
The Summer Institute is a free 12-week program for entrepreneurs of all levels of experience, running from April 28 to July 20, 2018 at the J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship at UNB. Applicants do not have to be students or Canadian citizens to apply.
The program is formatted as an intensive accelerator, aiming to help entrepreneurs with innovative ideas develop their idea into a business venture. The Summer Institute typically runs three days a week over three months, offering a program where participants learn skills in workshops, and meet with residents and other mentors to work to develop their venture.
Program manager Melissa Erin O’Rourke says benefits include work space on campus, access to university resources and mentorship from experienced individuals.
“We also have countless folks who donate their time to our community through mentorship, so a lot of entrepreneurs who’ve been through these processes before that come back and give their time to help you develop your business models, help you set price points, everything that you really need,” says O’Rourke.
“[Mentors offer] solid advice on when you’re going through the early stages of starting a business.”
To help participants financially, up to three founders per team participating in the program receives a minimum wage stipend of about $5,200 to help cover their living expenses and other necessities during the program. Each venture also has access to a $2,000 grant for prototyping.
The program accepts all varieties of ideas. Alumni include mental health-centred fashion line, Wear Your Label; coffee-based skincare line, Koffee Organics and muscle pain reliever, Vertiball.
The founder of Vertiball, Curtis Kennedy, participated in the Summer Institute and found his time there to be invaluable. He says that while it’s easy to dream, it’s much harder to actually pursue those dreams, but the Summer Institute is the right place to do it.
“One of the biggest things I learned in the program was the true power of people. You are given the ability to work with mentors that specialize in design, product development, business development, marketing and more. They give every ounce of energy they have to help shape your business, and more importantly, you as an entrepreneur,” says Kennedy.
When Sonya Burrill was a student at UNB, she noticed the smell of the linden blossoms. She already made her own skincare products, and wanted to scent them with linden essential oil.
After learning linden oil was unavailable due to how difficult it is to make it, she decided to take it on herself as a chemist. Aiming to fill the demand in the global market for linden oil, Burrill was accepted into the Summer Institute in 2017.
“The true gift of the Summer Institute is connection. You work with incredible mentors who want nothing more than for you to succeed. They quickly connect you with the skills and people you need to turn your idea into a business,” Burrill said.
“The other advantage of the Summer Institute is time. Because you are paid a small wage, you can work full-time on your business for three months, which is truly incredible.”
O’Rourke says that participants aren’t required to have a developed business plan when they join the program, and that many participants are in very early stages, some having started their businesses on the first day of the program. Still, she says it’s always good for applicants to have passion and plans for what they want to do with their idea.
“We like to see people who genuinely care about their idea and are already starting to experiment with what that may look like,” she said.
Applicants can submit as a single founder, or in teams of up to three people, but all must be 19 or older. Applications for the summer 2018 program are being accepted from Nov. 5, 2017 to Feb. 5, 2018. The Summer Institute does not take any equity from the entrepreneurs and their respective ventures.
“When you complete, your company is completely owned by you, and the entire idea is to give a chance to passionate people who have an idea that they’re excited about and are looking to get off the ground,” says O’Rourke.
Kennedy says that those who participate will be surprised at how much progress they’ll be able to make with the program.
“The 3-month program feels like it passes by in 3 weeks and will change you and your business in ways that you’d never imagined possible.”