OSEntreprendre aims to inspire entrepreneurship and the desire to contribute to building a proud, innovative, engaged, and prosperous Québec. The four adjectives were carefully selected. “These words are associated with everything we do,” says Manon Théberge, President-Director General of OSEntreprendre, a non-profit organization.
Since its foundation 25 years ago, OSEntreprendre has attracted more than 1.5 million people to its activities, the main one being the OSEntreprendre challenge, which gathers some 50,000 to 60,000 people.
The OSEntreprendre challenge is present in the 17 administrative regions of Québec. In all the regions, over 300 managers come together to share projects from their industry. “The work of the local managers is to look out for initiatives, gather the people leading these projects, and incite them to register,” explains Théberge. “At OSEntreprendre, we support them, bring them together, and put them in the spotlight. They become models for others who will eventually make things progress in their community.”
“We shine a light on Québec businesses with the ongoing positive influence of the OSEntreprendre challenge,” Théberge continues. She is proud of the diversity her organization creates.
“We want to help everyone, from the person who wants to open a cozy bakery—a project which would allow families to move to the village and keep the store open—to those who want to conquer the world with new technologies,” explains the OSEntreprendre CEO. “We work to include all business models.”
The values of OSEntreprendre are echoed by Quebecor. “The challenge reaches Quebecers from all walks of life, in every region in the province,” confirms Perla Azondekon, who supervises the development and entrepreneurial strategy for Quebecor and its subsidiaries. “It’s a mission that Quebecor and OSEntreprendre have in common. For us, it’s only natural to support the OSEntreprendre challenge, as it inspires and recognizes the braveness of both aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs, in a variety of categories.”
“The strength of OSEntreprendre lies in our consistent efforts throughout the province,” says Théberge. “We make sure that our work is in line with that of our networks, shining a light on the entrepreneurs and not the organizations.”
The CEO of OSEntreprendre wants to remind participants that they have until 4 p.m. on March 14 to enter the challenge. Each eligible entry will then be assessed by a panel of judges. Locally, candidates are usually selected after reading the files; on the regional and national levels, participants are invited to present their project in person.
“This presentation is an opportunity for candidates to make connections, which in turn will raise questions. Participants learn to introduce themselves and be analytical,” says Théberge. She adds that all entries will be considered.
The strength of the entrepreneurial community
OSEntreprendre is also a network of 14,030 entrepreneurs taking part in any one of the organization’s activities. Registered in the Répertoire OSEntreprendre business directory, these entrepreneurs get to benefit from a very useful resource, helping them find local suppliers.
Théberge highlights one of the main benefits of joining the OSEntreprendre entrepreneurial community: the participants get to enjoy a vast ecosystem that contains a ton of valuable information for anyone with entrepreneurial ambitions. The organization does not, however, offer support, mentoring, or financing services.
“OSEntreprendre regularly communicates with the participants who are part of the entrepreneurial community,” explains the head of the organization. By joining the community, participants are on top of business opportunities, financing information, changes in laws and regulations, and reference websites.
The entrepreneurial community is a way into new markets. As illustrated by Théberge, “one of our participants, who makes maple syrup, successfully developed a market abroad through the Offices jeunesse internationaux du Québec (LOJIQ).”
A meaningful collaboration
Increasing the strength of the entrepreneurial community: that’s where the collaboration between OSEntreprendre and Quebecor takes all its meaning, according to Azondekon, General Manager of asterX, a capital risk division set up by Quebecor in 2021.
“Through asterX, we put innovation and technology at the heart of our entrepreneurial strategy,” says Azondekon. “We are focused on building partnerships with emerging start-ups, which are beneficial to both parties. In Québec, we have a vast pool of talent working in innovation. We aspire to offer market validation locally, prioritizing the adoption of solutions developed here, that are sure to meet our needs and internal innovation challenges.”
“The best way to support our entrepreneurs is to become their customers,” says Théberge. The OSEntreprendre CEO acknowledges that “Quebecor has forward-thinking, inspiring practices, and working with local businesses is in their DNA.”
Quebecor and OSEntreprendre are working to convey their common philosophy and values to their entire ecosystem. They do this through initiatives such as the OSEntreprendre challenge and the Pierre-Péladeau Bursaries, which are both celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. Azondekon, who sits on the OSEntreprendre Board of Directors, concurs: “Since our respective foundations are solid, we’re working together now to bring this partnership even further.”
Quebecor, Québec’s pride and joy, partnered with OSEntreprendre for the first time nearly a decade ago. Some Quebecor subsidiaries are part of this partnership, including Videotron Business, a platinum partner. Videotron Business offers support in the Technological and Technical Innovations category and the Business Creation section of the OSEntreprendre challenge.
A human experience
he OSEntreprendre challenge is intended for elementary, high school, CEGEP, and university students who initiated a project (Scholastic section); for new entrepreneurs (Business Creation section); and for entrepreneurs who have successfully been in business for more than five years (Successful Business Inc. section). There is also a section for entrepreneurs who want to set up purchasing models with local suppliers (Doing Business Together section).
With a total of $800,000 in prizes and bursaries distributed each year, the sums offered are particularly enticing. “Starting a business obviously requires money, and the amounts given to the participants helps give them visibility and credibility,” Théberge acquiesces. “But what really helps them grow faster is being alongside other entrepreneurs.”
The sum of all these humane experiences is crucial,” says the OSEntreprendre CEO. “Oftentimes, the entrepreneurs come to realize that others face the same issues as them.”
The encounters within the business community help several people break the often-biased image of a confident businessperson and leader. “Someone may be bold and driven, but be introverted and analytical as well,” reminds Théberge. “There’s no standard profile for entrepreneurs.”
Developing entrepreneurial spirit
Education through entrepreneurial spirit, a wonderful educational approach created by OSEntreprendre, has had a significant positive impact on the development of young people.
“The goal of OSEntreprendre is not to turn young people into junior entrepreneurs, though some may become successful businesspeople in the future,” mentions Théberge. She sometimes comes across winners who once upon a time took part in the Scholastic section.
According to the CEO of OSEntreprendre, the primary purpose of education is not to train electricians, lawyers, or entrepreneurs, but rather to help each young person reach their full potential. In a school environment, entrepreneurial projects contribute to educational perseverance and success, while helping students blossom.
“The entrepreneurial projects are especially suitable for students with learning disabilities, those who are gifted, and those who do not have support at home,” says Théberge. “It helps students feel a connection to school, create ties with teachers and school workers, persevere, and give meaning to their academics.”
Entrepreneurial education allows school workers to fine-tune their practices, as well as to take more pleasure in teaching, particularly given the reduced negative behaviours by students and the need for discipline in class.
The OSEntreprendre challenge experienced a slight slow-down during the pandemic. However, in 2022, OSEntreprendre saw keen enthusiasm for its contest, with 49,314 participants. “During the confinement, when nearly everything was closed, there was an uptick in motivation,” recalls Théberge. “The desire to do business is everywhere, in every industry, big or small.”
Since the 2021 creation of the Doing Business Together component, Azondekon has become a member of the judges’ panel. This aspect of the OSEntreprendre challenge is supported by Quebecor.
The Doing Business Together component highlights companies that stand out for their purchasing practices, which prioritize suppliers from all over the province.
A winner from the Doing Business Together section, André Morin of microbrasserie St-Pancrace (in French), is a great example. The co-owner of the Baie-Comeau business had to make certain choices that paid off in the end for both the business itself and all his local partners.
Dozens of entrepreneurs from the 17 administrative regions of Québec, working in various areas, decided to take on the OSEntreprendre challenge, unbeknownst to Morin.
“We hope to see more and more businesses turning to local suppliers, one expense line at a time,” Théberge confides. “At OSEntreprendre, we support all of these initiatives, and we hope to help established and start-up companies all over Québec progress.”
7 march 2023, By Videotron Business
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