University of Windsor receives $800,000 to help student entrepreneurs

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Windsor Star/Trevor Wilhelm

George Mitri can’t wait to watch his business idea go down the sewer drain.  Mitri is exactly the kind of dreamer who will benefit from $800,000 in funding the RBC Foundation announced Tuesday for the University of Windsor’s student entrepreneur programs.

Mitri, a third-year mechanical engineering student, knows how beneficial the program can be. He and his partners have already gone through it as they try to develop a mobile snow melter that would replace snowplows.

Instead of pushing the snow to the side of the road, his machine would collect and melt it. The water can either be repurposed or poured into the sewer system.

“We believe there a lot of things going for it,” said Mitri. “It’s just getting it developed, getting it working and getting it on the roads.”

The $800,000 will support two programs at U of W’s Entrepreneurship Practice and Innovation Centre (EPICentre).

One of them is the RBC Epic Founders Program, a 12-week program that gives up to 12 young entrepreneurs $6,000 to develop their business ideas.

Participants also have the opportunity to showcase their work to mentors and potential investors during Demo Day. The team with most viable idea on Demo Day receives $3,500 to help take their business to the next level.

All participants in the Founders Program can also apply to be part of an on-campus business incubator. Perks there include six months of free rent along with advice and support from business faculty and industry mentors. Businesses in the incubator are eligible for the RBC Business Model Competition, which was also funded by Tuesday’s announcement.

The competition allows people to test the market readiness of their idea. The top performing business wins $10,000. The runner-up gets $2,500.

“We finally have a facility where students can really kick the tires on what it is to be an entrepreneur,” said university president Alan Wildeman. “They maybe have a great business idea, we want to be able to support them.”

“It’s all about creating the environment within which young people can help develop the new economy.”

Mitri’s plans could be 10 years from coming to fruition, but he said the Founders Program put him on the right track.

“When you have an idea, sometimes you don’t know exactly if it will work out,” he said. “Coming into the program you learn things, you learn key points, this massive amount of information that changes your view on your own idea. It does cause you to view it in a different way.”