You might have already noticed this familiar sight in your own neighbourhood: a primary school student with an improvised kiosk outside the family home, selling lemonade and cupcakes to passers-by, or 6th-grade kids getting together to turn a driveway into a car wash, to the delight of their neighbours. These are just a couple of examples of initiatives that prove there is no age limit when it comes to entrepreneurship and developing business skills!
As a teacher or entrepreneur, what can you do to encourage students looking to find inspiration in positive role models? In the near term, Semaine des entrepreneurs à l’école is definitely an event you should be adding to your calendar. This activity to raise awareness about entrepreneurship—an initiative of OSEntreprendre—has been developing interest in starting a business amongst young people since 2017.
On the program are hundreds of talks at schools given by Québec entrepreneurs to students of all levels, all for the purpose of instilling in them the desire to start a business. This very special week occurs every year in the fall, coinciding with Global Entrepreneurship Week. This year, participating entrepreneurs are taking off their CEO caps to spend a week as conference speakers from November 13 to 24, 2023. But don’t delay—event enrollment is only open until October 19, 2023.
Teachers relate their experiences
From primary school to university, Semaine des entrepreneurs à l’école has met with success. Over 125,000 young people have had the chance to attend the conference in recent years. Some teachers don’t hesitate to repeat the experience, and the participating entrepreneurs have been very generous with their time, revealing not only their successes (and a few failures!), but also their overall journeys, their experiences in business, and involvement in the community.
Simon Racicot teaches social studies as well as entrepreneurship and leadership at Collège Villa Maria in Montréal. The institute has also been host to entrepreneurs as part of this awareness-raising event for many years. “Entrepreneurs sometimes have unusual histories and very different personal motivations,” states Racicot.
In addition to clarifying career choices in general, the talks offered are well-adapted to students of all levels. “One of the big advantages of promoting entrepreneurship in the school system is to be able to shape the interests and passions of students to enable them to take on educational projects as part of a group,” he explains.
Pascal Turcotte, a social studies teacher at Collège Durocher Saint-Lambert, also mentions an aspect common to every presentation his class attended. “All the entrepreneurs talked about being driven by passion and how much they loved working at their company,” he says. What an important lesson for students! “They also talked about the failures they experienced, and how those were beneficial to their journey,” he points out.
So what is his best tip for other teachers who might like to take part in Semaine des entrepreneurs à l’école this year? “Dive in,” he says. All it takes is one spark to light up students’ interest in entrepreneurship. “They learn a lot during these talks,” he emphasizes.
Another teacher at Collège Durocher Saint-Lambert, particularly appreciates the efficient process for signing up for the event, and the simplicity of the conference’s organization within the school system. “It’s such an enriching format for students,” he states. Certain stubborn myths remain about the subject, and students need to be sensitized to the realities of entrepreneurship. “They need to be presented with the different realities in entrepreneurship and the qualities needed for success, but that’s not all! We also need to fight against disinformation: Sometimes entrepreneurship is presented on social media as an easy way to make money, but that’s not the reality,” he explains.
So what is his best tip for other teachers who might like to take part in Semaine des entrepreneurs à l’école this year? “Dive in,” says Pascal Turcotte. All it takes is one spark to light up students’ interest in entrepreneurship. “They learn a lot during these talks,” he emphasizes.
An inspiring entrepreneur with an atypical career path
Geneviève Tardif, a joint shareholder in Abeilles du Faubourg, is always completely honest about her unusual path to entrepreneurship. As a prior presenter from November 16 to 22, 2022, for students in their first year of secondary school, it was her intention to show students that entrepreneurship wasn’t limited to the typical image of a man in a suit carrying around a briefcase. Her own experience has been difficult and circuitous, though a valuable experience nevertheless!
“I earned a DEC in graphic design, a bachelor’s in graphic design, and a DEC in designing eyewear in order to become an optician. Ten years later, my partner and I decided to get into beekeeping,” she explains.
And that was it—they had both been bitten by the apiculture bug! “We were lucky to be able to take advantage of mentoring by Alvéole for a whole season. We then took a course at Cégep de Lévis-Lauzon to learn how to manage a collection of 30 to 40 hives. Finally, we completed an Attestation de spécialisation professionnelle [ASP] while launching our business so we could develop our business plan,” explains Tardif.
At this juncture she definitely seems to be enjoying a high point in her career. “There is no age requirement to get started or to want to start a business. All the detours, everything I had done up until that point served me well on a daily basis in my role as an entrepreneur. Life is full of surprises and 180-degree turns, but you shouldn’t necessarily see these as mistakes. You learn something from every experience and that turns you into the person you will become. If I’ve been able to inspire just one young person, I would be very happy,” she says.
One thing is for sure: The Abeilles du Faubourg family business has no lack of projects on the horizon. “We’d like to finish the renovations on our farm buildings so we can start focusing on making tie-in products—soaps, candles, lip balms, for example—produced by our hives. We’d also like to have our own store on the farm in 2024, so we can meet our customers onsite,” she says.
The students had a lot of questions for Geneviève on her work as a beekeeper. Curiosity is quite a useful character trait to have if you want to start a business!
Three tasks to complete to participate
1- Complete the registration form
You can sign up for Semaine des entrepreneurs à l’école through the OSEntreprendre website. To request a talk at your school or to volunteer as an entrepreneur-speaker, you need to complete the appropriate registration form before October 19, 2023.
If you have taken part in an OSEntreprendre activity in the past, you already have an existing file with the organization. You should therefore use the same email address and access code in the connection zone at the bottom of this page to access your file. You may then complete the registration form.
On the other hand, if this is your first event with the organization, you should create a new file for yourself. You must provide your email address and confirm that your file has been opened by clicking on the link provided in the confirmation email.
2- Prepare using the tools provided
Teachers and school directors can prepare for the event by consulting the document Fiche préparatoire pour le milieu scolaire. Here you’ll find that everything has been planned out in advance to facilitate your participation. This document provides advice for planning activities and optimizing students’ experience before the presentation, as well as tips for ensuring the talk goes well the day of the event. Lastly, this practical document gives you a process for publicizing your participation and demonstrating the dynamism of your school.
If instead you’re interested in inspiring future entrepreneurs in Québec and sharing your experience in business, then the Fiche préparatoire de l’entrepreneur is the right form for you! This tool provides recommendations, pitfalls that should be avoided, and a few key parameters for preparing your talk. You’ll also find a few ideas for diversifying your approach and a few scenarios to serve as 45-minute frameworks for your presentation.
Meeting with young people as part of this conference is an enriching experience that requires good preparation. Ensure you have adapted your presentation based on your audience. As attendees of Semaine des entrepreneurs à l’école, the audience will be composed of young people in midst of developing their personal identities. Be authentic and take some time to remember the way you yourself thought about the world of adults when you were their age.
3- Take the process one step further
OSEntreprendre offers resources to teachers so they can keep up the entrepreneurial spirit all year long. For example, the pedagogical tool L’esprit entreprendre en 25 cartes illustrées is great for sparking discussions on the topic. This is a free digital tool kit that you can download, full of fun materials and abundant illustrations!
The Banque de projets entrepreneuriaux can also help you experiment with entrepreneurship as a class. In it you’ll find over a hundred examples of inspiring projects created by interested students, including all the steps it took to create them, the materials needed, and the results obtained. These online resources—particularly École branchée and La Fabrique à projets—may also prove useful as part of your process.
Is your students’ interest really obvious? Does a taste for entrepreneurship seem to be already well developed at your school? If your business idea has promise, register it for the academic component of the Défi OSEntreprendre—the registration period takes place between November and March. This major Québec event promotes the entrepreneurial initiatives of thousands of people every year.
This is exactly what a few of Pascal Turcotte’s class teams did in recent years. “A former student launched a company and was selected as a winner in the “Second-Year Secondary Level” category of the academic component for the region of Montérégie. I also had the chance to guide students whose project was to create a board game. They continued development up until the end of secondary school. I was proud of both these groups of participants, of the creativity and passion they showed in their respective projects.”
Three of the winning companies at the 25th Gala of the Défi OSEntreprendre— Virtuose Technologies, InnovaPlant, and Alcyon sea salt—have recently been the subject of media coverage in Québec. A course called Innovative Product Creation taken by four engineering students at Université de Sherbrooke was the original catalyst for the launch of one of those businesses…
Entrepreneurship is also a way of getting involved in the community. “Entrepreneurship means taking action to solve a problem or offer a service to people who need it. This is how we can lead students towards becoming citizens with skills for the 21st century!” emphasizes Pascal Turcotte.
Just because you’re young and may yet be small, doesn’t mean you can’t aim high. Whether your path to entrepreneurship begins with selling lemonade for $1 on a street corner is not important. What is important is that you have already developed the skills you need to, eventually, hit on a major idea. And maybe one day it will be your turn to be the speaker who inspires the next Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Pierre Péladeau!
13 october 2023, By Videotron Business
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