Student entrepreneurs make the most of the pandemic


By Mason Goodfellow

Matteo Slaviero is a first-year business marketing student at Mohawk College who is taking advantage of the summer break by starting his own digital marketing business.

“Right when school is done, I need to put my full force into this. Now that I have no other distractions, I can actually put things I’ve learned from my marketing program and implement these skills into a real job,” said Slaviero.

For many students, summer break means finding a traditional summer job, but for others, the summer break means more time to work on their business.

Wilfrid Laurier University offers a program called LaunchPad where students can go to get mentorship while starting their own business. “Students or alumni who have a business idea, no matter how developed that idea is, can use the LaunchPad program,” said career consultant Jennifer Hicks.

Many post-secondary students have become interested in starting their own businesses over the course of the pandemic because they have more free time. According to Statistics Canada, there are currently 1.2 million small businesses in Canada and more than 96,000 small businesses are started every year.

Deanna Kovacs-Ricciuti, who recently graduated from Sheridan College’s makeup for media and creative arts program, started her own business after she was laid off in February. Kovacs-Ricciuti is putting her education to work with her small business selling self-care and beauty products. “I’ve always had an interest in beauty products and I am a certified makeup artist so I thought it would be a fun side hustle to start,” said Kovacs-Ricciuti.

Slaviero also found inspiration from the lockdowns while watching work and school transition to an online format. “I’ve noticed that opportunities have arisen from COVID-19 and the fact that we can start anything we want from our home and be just as successful as someone working a traditional job this summer,” said Slaviero.

The pandemic is encouraging more people to support small businesses as they are the ones being affected the hardest. Statistics Canada reported that small businesses with fewer than 100 employees reported a 40 per cent decrease in revenue in 2020 compared to in 2019.

Kovacs-Ricciuti sold out within the first six hours of announcing her business on Instagram and is now making larger amounts of products to keep up with orders.

The province runs a program for post-secondary students who want to start their own businesses over the summer. Summer Company allows students to take their business idea to the next level. The program offers eligible students funding to start their business as well as advice and mentoring from local business leaders.

The Summer Company program only during the summer months, but Hicks said some alumni have turned their summer business into a full-time opportunity.

That’s what Slaviero hopes to do.

“I believe it’s time to make that shift. Some people might say I’m too young, but I disagree and I think it’s the best time to do it. We have nothing but time so might as well use it to better our future,” said Slaviero.

The Laurier Brantford Career Centre can help students decide what they want to do with their business. “We often meet with students exploring different career opportunities. We look at who you are, what your goals are, what are your values and interests and then find out what career opportunities might fit with that,” said Hicks.

Hicks added that the career centre often refers student entrepreneurs to the Brantford-Brant Business Resource Centre, which offers free business advice and workshops to people starting their own business.