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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Student entrepreneurs sought

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

In a season when many kids his age were flipping burgers and hanging out with friends, high school student Francis Pelland was honing his entrepreneurial skills as a small business owner.
Grade 12 student Francis Pelland started his own business with the help of the Summer Company program. Applications will be accepted until April 4.

He was one of 188 students from across the province selected to establish a Summer Company through the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade last summer.

"I've taken some business courses at school, but what I learned in class was nothing compared to what I learned in Summer Company," says Pelland, a Grade 12 student at St. Charles Garnier Catholic Secondary School in Whitby.

The Summer Company program provides hands-on business training and mentoring to help enterprising young people start up and run their own summer business.

"Minister Joe Cordiano is very committed to youth entrepreneurs. They're the business leaders of the next generation," spokesperson Molly Finlay says.

"We have a vision of Ontario being globally competitive," she says. "That's the big picture, but it starts with the young people. They're laying the foundation. These young people get a taste of running their own business, really love it and want to do it again."

More than 1,500 students have completed the program, which will be offered to 250 students this summer. Past successes have ranged from computer and technology businesses to day camps, snack bars, lawn care and painting.

"We want to see a good business plan ... and are looking for an entrepreneurial spirit and an idea that will work," Finlay says.

Learn the ropes

Summer Company is co-ordinated and delivered through one of 44 Small Business Enterprise Centres located across Ontario. In addition to financial support, those selected learn the ropes in workshops on topics such as registering their business, how to collect PST and GST and how to market their company. They're also hooked up with a mentor.
  • The Summer Company program, funded by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, is open to students aged 15 to 29 years who are returning to school full time in the fall.
  • Applicants must submit a detailed business plan that can be written with the help of their local business advisory centre. Successful applicants will be awarded up to $1,500 in the spring for start up costs and up to $1,500 in September when they return to school.
  • The application deadline is Monday, April 4. Successful applicants will be notified about four weeks later. Applications are available online at www.

  • The lessons learned as a small business owner are invaluable. "You need to know things like how to work your finances and price your services," Pelland says. "I looked at how much competitors were charging and what they were offering. I wanted to be priced a little less and offer a little more."

    He had won provincial and school web design contests and established FP Cyber Design (, a company he continues to operate. In addition to web design, Pelland does graphic and advertising design in both English and French.

    Pelland will study electrical and computer engineering at university next fall with a better understanding of what it takes to be successful.

    "Starting a business is nowhere as easy as it looks," he says. "No one comes up to you. You have to get out there and tell people about what you can do for them, get a few contacts and start to build your business one client at a time."

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