Passion and ambition in the spotlight at GBC Entrepreneurship Day

Attendees encouraged to not be afraid to fail ‘horribly’ in entrepreneurial efforts

Why not me? It’s the question on everyone’s mind, and one that Amy Matchen posed to a room full of upcoming entrepreneurs at this year’s George Brown College (GBC) Entrepreneurship Day.

The event, which took place on Nov. 17 at The George, brought together both alumni and emerging entrepreneurs and aimed to demystify the often solitary road of entrepreneurship for students.

“What we’re really trying to create here is a collaborative community,” explained Matchen, manager of StartGBC. “That’s really what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. You need to be able to get help everywhere.”

StartGBC, a student-focused hub for entrepreneurship offering students mentoring and support, spearheaded the event in collaboration with partners including George Brown’s Digital Media and Gaming Incubator, the Social Innovation Hub, and Enactus.

The event revolved around an in-depth panel discussion with George Brown affiliated entrepreneurs including Amy Nguyen, Ali Tuckey, Jackie MacLachlan and Nigel Soederhuysen.  Nguyen, Tuckey and Soederhuysen are all recent graduates from George Brown College. Nguyen and McLachlan’s projects were supported and funded through StartGBC, while Tuckey and Soederhuysen were given support for their endeavors through the Social Innovation Hub and George Brown’s Digital Media and Gaming Incubator respectively.

The panelists talked about everything from early successes to specifics, such as when it may be helpful to seek legal council. Yet at the heart of each panelist’s answer was a consistent running message: passion was the defining driving force behind their projects, and failure was only a learning experience.

“Don’t be afraid to horribly fail,” said Tuckey. “If you want to be an entrepreneur, be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Nguyen echoed this with blunt and passionate advice. “Have a defined goal, and then don’t accept when someone says no. Keep pushing, be ambitious.”

Attendees were left refreshed and energized with treats provided by the Pretty Sweet Pastry Boutique, a fitting touch, considering the bakery’s owner, Jen Frank, is a George Brown graduate from the baking and pastry arts management.

“It was nice to see a very genuine side of start-ups,” said attendee Danielle Shkiler. “Seeing people being honest about entrepreneurship, the struggles and the challenges, but still saying this is an idea, and I’m following it, I really liked that.”

“The panel is called Why Not Me? for a reason,” Matchen said. “It’s very relatable, it’s not Steve Jobs or Elon Musk or someone who seems a million miles away. These are students, or recent graduates, they’re exactly like the attendees. They’ve got all the same problems, all the same opportunities.”

With the completion of the Entrepreneurship Day, Matchen hopes to promote the upcoming It’s a Start pitch competition, run through the centre for arts, design and IT at George Brown. The competition, with the finals taking place at Digifest 2017, features cash rewards for budding entrepreneurs to help kick-start their businesses.

While the competition provides funding for emerging entrepreneurs, for Matchen, getting start-up money is only part of the puzzle, and StartGBC’s aim is to help folks put together all the pieces.

“You need funding that’s for sure, but you also need a good business plan, mentorship, space to work, coaching, guidance and even legal advice,” said Matchen. “StartGBC tries to provide a lot of these things.”

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Passion and ambition in the spotlight at GBC Entrepreneurship Day