What do three graduate students in marine biology, biomedical engineering and epidemiology have in common besides late nights, research and thesis writing?
Answer: A penchant for entrepreneurship, which Memorial’s Entrepreneurship Training Program (ETP) aims to channel.
Demand continues to grow
A collaborative effort between Memorial’s School of Graduate Studies, Internationalization Office, and Student Life, and supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Entrepreneurship Training Program offers graduate students interested in starting a business an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship.
With more students interested in exploring the possibilities that entrepreneurship offers, demand for the program continues to grow: the 2017-18 academic year saw the highest uptake with 52 participants, a 44 per cent increase from 2016-17.
Samantha Andrews, a PhD student in marine biology from Jersey, U.K., already had a “side hustle” in marine science communications with her business, Oceans Oculus, when she started the program in fall 2017.
“I wanted to join ETP to guide me through the challenges and opportunities of being a small-business owner,” she said.
“I wanted to think a little more about taking the business from its current role of helping me pay for my PhD to being a viable employment option once I graduate.”
The program helps students like Ms. Andrews explore their business concepts through interactive presentations and workshops that cover core entrepreneurship themes and skills such as problem-solving, sales, marketing and financial planning.
Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs
But ETP is not solely about starting businesses. Program co-ordinator Nicole Evans says the goal is broader than that.
“ETP focuses on helping participants develop entrepreneurial attitudes, and technical and managerial competencies,” she said.
“We empower students to become entrepreneurs who start their own ventures, and just as important, to become intrapreneurs — individuals who drive innovation as employees and researchers within an organization.”
This approach resonated with Sinh Duc Bui, a graduate student in biomedical engineering from Vietnam who is working on a smart-watch concept. One of his key takeaways from ETP is to challenge the perception what it means to be an entrepreneur.
“Entrepreneurship is not all about opening a business,” he said. “It’s more about creating new ways to tackle existing problems.”
Mr. Bui plans to seek employment in his field post-graduation, while pursuing his business idea in his spare time.
Beyond skills development and startup assistance, the program also introduces students to the local entrepreneurship community on campus and beyond. Participants are connected to local entrepreneurs, mentors, funding sources and other essential resources as they develop their skills and businesses.
Jill Hurd, a PhD student of epidemiology in community health and founder of jewelry and clothing company Rep the Rock, found the networking opportunities the most valuable aspect of ETP.
“Every person I have met, either through ETP directly or through an event they organized, has been so kind, sincere and willing to help me make my business more successful,” she said.
“The support I have received throughout this process has made me realize how open people are to share their experiences with you in order to help you succeed.”
Listening to feedback
As the ETP heads into its seventh year, the program will continue to offer interactions with local entrepreneurs and subject matter experts through lectures, workshops, networking events, panel discussions and one-on-one advising.
But there are some changes to delivery for the program in 2018-19. Based on participant feedback, programming is being developed for the two distinct participant types: those seeking to develop entrepreneurial awareness and skills and those seeking to develop a specific business concept. To reach a broader audience, the new ETP will also include an online portion.
Ms. Evans is looking forward to welcoming a new cohort in September.
“Programs like the ETP are critical to ensuring a diverse economy across multiple sectors that will contribute to the province’s long-term prosperity. We are excited to further the impact and reach of this program.”
The ETP will accept students into its 2018-19 program in September 2018. More details and updates can be found online.