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Entrepreneurial expertise

Navigate centre fosters innovation and creativity in business startups

special feature: Innovation

Part of a special feature showcasing Memorial’s innovation ecosystem, a pan-university effort focused on supporting the development and success of innovators across Newfoundland and Labrador.  

By Melanie Callahan

The Navigate Centre for Entrepreneurship at Grenfell Campus is building relationships with clients, partners and organizations that are paving the ways for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.

The Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre, formerly known as Gateway West, opened at Grenfell in the fall of 2004. In its 13 years of operation, the centre has provided business counselling services to students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Students gather in the Navigate centre at Grenfell
Photo: David Howells

Navigate plays many roles in entrepreneurship growth, including assistance in business and financial planning, market research and networking and mentoring opportunities.

Grenfell and CNA connection

Since its inception, the centre has served almost 250 clients.

The work of Navigate has also supported the startup of more than 80 businesses in Western Newfoundland and beyond.

Sean St. George, manager at Navigate, physically shares his time between offices in Navigate Centres at both Grenfell Campus and the College of the North Atlantic’s Corner Brook campus.

Both places offer office space for entrepreneurs to hold meetings, use office equipment and gain access to mentors.

Sparking new ideas

A new partnership is allowing for Navigate student-clients the opportunity to avail of services offered through the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Here, new entrepreneurs may be eligible for funding and subsidies. Navigate has also recently begun working with Futurpreneur Canada, a non-profit organization that provides financing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39.

“Students are energized and are seeing themselves as entrepreneurs.” — Sean St. George

Its mentoring program matches young entrepreneurs with business experts from a network of more than 2,800 volunteer mentors.

And the efforts are paying off. More and more, students are coming to us when they are thinking of a business, says Mr. St. George.

“Students are energized and are seeing themselves as entrepreneurs,” he said. “Navigate provides the base that they build upon. They find a new way to look at a new idea, looking at it in the early stages of business development. The benefit of our involvement is that it provides a base for creativity, business incubation and innovation.

“Students are visiting us and they are happy with what we’re doing. They’re able to take advantage of funding opportunities that promote entrepreneurship, and programming that promotes skills in entrepreneurship.”

Funding partners

Funding for the centre comes from diverse sources, all with a similar goal of fostering entrepreneurship as a viable career path.

Partners include the Government of Canada-Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador- Departments of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation and Advanced Education, Skills and Labour and Grenfell Campus and the College of the North Atlantic-Corner Brook Campus.

Navigate’s biggest successes come from the businesses it has helped to establish.

Alex Henniffent
Photo: Submitted

Alex Henniffent is a 21-year-old, award-winning entrepreneur.

He began his academic career at College of the North Atlantic and is working on a business administration degree at Grenfell.

Growing up, Mr. Henniffent always knew he wanted to pursue a career doing what he enjoyed doing.

At the age of 14, he turned his creative drive and passion for snowboarding to VOLTFUSE, a specialty headwear and apparel brand, primarily catering towards the snowboarding market.

Since establishing his first business, Mr. Henniffent has gone on to serve as a mentor for other youth entrepreneurs and speak at a number of conferences, along with being highlighted in publications like Maclean’s magazine and the Globe and Mail.

Coupling his practical experiences and achievements with his studies in marketing, he remains fiercely determined towards contributing to Canada’s entrepreneurial environment by constantly seeking new opportunities to innovate and create.

“Spending these past four years at both the College of the North Atlantic and Grenfell Campus has been very rewarding, and the experience itself was greatly enhanced by having access to the Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre,” Mr. Henniffent said.

“The space itself provided by Navigate is very professional and welcoming and has all of the necessary resources and technologies to assist budding and existing entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Most importantly, Mr. St. George provides a wealth of knowledge in a diverse field of topics and access to a growing network of mentors and professionals.”

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