Business accelerator programs encouraging students to become engaged in entrepreneurial endeavours have been popping up in colleges all around the world.
For instance, during a class, you may have witnessed an information session on Centennial’s own accelerator appropriately named ACCEL (Accelerator for Centennial Community Entrepreneurs and Leaders) But if you’re anything like me, you steeped all that was said during this session in a pool of cynicism. It’s not our fault. We’ve constantly been bombarded with the “get rich” schemes of the internet. My personal favourite is the ad about some guy named Tod who quit his job, got rich and wears board shorts all day because he started his own business. No Tod, you may not have my credit card information.
ACCEL however is a provincially-funded business accelerator with offices at both Progress Campus and the Story Arts Centre. So perhaps ACCEL is worth a closer look. Don’t worry I did it for you.
First off, you don’t have to dive head first into the program. Instead, ACCEL offers a toe first approach for those of us who are new to the idea of starting our own business. Students are welcome to take advantage of the programming offered which include workshops on a variety of topics.
Secondly, these guys at ACCEL aren’t just a bunch of “Tods.” Not one person at ACCEL will tell you that starting a successful business is easy. In fact, those new to the program are assessed before any work is done. The manager of ACCEL, Donovan Dill, calls it a “triage system.” Those students who don’t have an idea for a business are put into the red stream. In this stream, coaches help students to understand how their skill set can be translated into a successful business. The yellow stream is where the student has developed an idea and is now able to sit down with a coach and fill out a business plan template. Those in the green stream have a completed business plan that may require some tweaking. Those who move on to graduation have a fully approved business plan and receive $2,500 in funding for their start up.
Thirdly, perhaps most importantly, the ACCEL program allows students to make a jump from the abstract to the concrete. This is especially helpful for those of us in programs that aren’t traditionally associated with entrepreneurism. For instance, Donovan Dill spoke of a fine arts student who began selling her paintings. Dill explained that her biggest issue was that she failed to factor the time she spent on each piece into her price.
Sadly, this poor overworked painter isn’t alone. Vague, underdeveloped business ideas float uselessly in the brains of most college students. Perhaps it’s time we put them down on paper and see where they go. At the very least we can find out what our time is worth and start charging for it.