Make up your own summer job: Kingston offering start-up grants to student entrepreneurs

KINGSTON, ONT. — The city of Kingston is hoping to encourage students in the city to create their own summer jobs, and is providing them with grants to make it happen.

The Summer Compamy program is distributed through the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDC) and the Ministry of Economic Development and Job Creation and Trade.

Students who want to create their own business through the summer months can apply. Those who are chosen will be given training, support and mentorship to help them begin.

Claire Bouvier is the small business advisor with the KEDC. A small business owner herself, she is also a mentor under the program. She says under COVID-19, this is a good year for students to try to create their own businesses.

“Maybe during the pandemic you’ve recognized something things, changes, you want to solve a problem. We’d love people like you to apply, people that are innovative that want to make a difference, whether it’s environmental or social,” she says.

Bouvier says 10 students will be selected for grants of up to $3,000.

They have to be between the ages of 15 to 29 and be enrolled in school for the fall of 2021. They also have to be able to dedicate at least 35 hours a week to running their business.

“It’s an opportunity for them to test out, before they jump into the real world, starting their own business. They have government support, they have a boot camp, they have lots of support to test a business so they have an idea of what that looks like,” she says.

Under pandemic and current stay-at-home restrictions, Bouvier says they are putting a focus on web-based businesses that can be done remotely. They are also encouraging environmentally friendly businesses.

“We need people now more than ever at this time to be innovative and to create a positive impact both for people and for our environment,” says Bouvier.

“The ultimate goal is that these amazing entrepreneurs stay within Kingston and help contribute to our economy.”

Mikayla McFarlane was one of the grant winners in 2020.

At 16 years old, she created a volleyball backboard trainer after seeing them built on TikTok.

The trainer allows athletes to practice their volleyball techniques against it, and keep up their skills at home while team sports are cancelled during the pandemic.

She says she made one for herself and her sister at home and people quickly began asking to buy them.

She says that’s when she reached out to the Summer Company program.

“It’s kind of similar to Dragons Den, actually. I had to create a proposal and a pitch and from there they selected a bunch of applicants and I got accepted into the program,” she explains of the process.

In an interview with CTV News Ottawa, she says it helped cover the cost of the materials. Without a job at the time, she now feels like she wouldn’t have been able to start a business like this.

“The initial money they game me helped buy a lot of the initial tools. They’re not cheap,” she laughs. “I don’t think it would have been as much of a possibility had I not been provided with that initial start up funding.”

McFarlane says she’ll be continuing with her business this year. 

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