Young entrepreneurs showcase their businesses in Windsor

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Windsor Star/Miriam Katawazi

Showcasing a small summer business by day and attending high school graduation by night — that’s how some young entrepreneurs spent their Wednesday.

The Staples store on Walker Road was home to much more than office supplies, as 25 students set up stalls for the day to showcase their businesses as part of the Summer Company program for young entrepreneurs.

“I knew there was no way I couldn’t do this program,” said Kylie Baillargeon, owner at Pet Place Products, a business she founded through the Summer Company. “I came up with a business plan to create pet products and give back to the community at the same time.”

A percentage of her profits will be donated to the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society. The 16-year-old entrepreneur said that this will not only give back to an important cause, but will also entice pet lovers to shop at her online store.

The Summer Company is a product of the Ontario government, which partners with local centres and organizations to launch the program in communities across the province.

The WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation’s Small Business Centre launched the initiative in Windsor to help young high school and post-secondary students start a small business.

The program provides students with valuable skills and information needed to launch a small business, said Sandra Vasquez, the centre’s youth entrepreneurship co-ordinator.

Along with training and mentoring, students also receive $3,000 in financial support to launch their endeavours.

“We have a lot of students who keep running their business even after they complete the program,” said Vasquez. “They are learning about how to make a sale, to do their marketing, accounting and bookkeeping and everything that it takes to run a business.”

For the third year, the Summer Company partnered with 54 Staples locations across Ontario to showcase the projects for a day at their stores. This is the first year a Staples store in Windsor has joined in.

The 25 students at Staples each had their own unique type of businesses. Some had traditional summer businesses, while others focused on skin care, furniture and even animation.

At 15 years old, Lexi Newhook is the program’s youngest entrepreneur. She is the owner of a small store on Boblo Island in Amherstburg.

At the Beach House Goodie Shack, Newhook sells handmade soaps, lip balms, body butters and lotion bars made from natural ingredients, as well as clothing and jewellery.

The store is already very popular, said Newhook. Each weekend, tourists and visitors on the island empty her shelves of colourful soaps.

“I usually have 20 to 30 on a shelf and they are constantly just sold out, and I’m constantly making them.”

“But it’s a good problem to have,” she said laughing.