Have you ever dreamed of running your own small business? Maybe you’d like to offer event planning services to local not-for-profits, operate a kayak rental kiosk for tourists, or consult with other small businesses on their marketing or management strategies. You might think you have to put your entrepreneurial goals on hold until you graduate, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Since 2017, the Mount has offered business, PR, and tourism co-op students the opportunity to complete entrepreneurial work terms. This means students who develop their own business enterprise can have that experience counted towards their co-op requirements so long as they meet the eligibility requirements (see our website for more information).
Former PR co-op student Gabe Roy completed his first two work terms with organizations that supported new entrepreneurs in their professional journeys. “I felt inspired being around people who were completely committed to their own ideas,” Gabe explains. On his final work term, Gabe knew he wanted to give entrepreneurship a try. Along the way he came to understand both the unique challenges and benefits that an entrepreneurial work term can provide.
Challenges and Benefits
“To be completely honest, the challenges with this type of work term are very real,” Gabe says. Between managing his own work schedule, securing funding, building a network of clients, and facing limitations related to his relative inexperience in the field, the work could be quite stressful at times. “This can be a trying time in your life, and it certainly isn’t for everyone,” he acknowledges. At the same time, Gabe has learned a lot about his own strengths and abilities as a PR professional. “These are also the experiences that can lead to the most growth, where I could experiment in the business world with more guidance and fewer consequences.”
Thankfully, Gabe didn’t have to tackle these challenges on his own. As part of the entrepreneurial work term application process he connected with an industry mentor who agreed to offer him support. “Having an experienced business person dedicated to my success made a world of difference. Simply knowing they were there to answer my questions and provide guidance gave me a sense of security as I was figuring things out.”
Since his time at the Mount, Gabe has founded several PR-related businesses in Halifax. The important lessons he learned on his final co-op have continued to help him today as a business owner.
1.Be clear in what you offer. “Don’t overcommit to a ton of services. Figure out a niche where you can enjoy what you’re doing and offer something of value to others.”
2.Be confident in yourself. “You’re not going to have all the answers. Nobody does. But you can equip yourself with more knowledge. Once you start to see the value you bring to your clients that will help you understand what your services are worth.”
3.Never stop learning. “Always strive to be better than you were the day before. Don’t compare yourself to others, focus strictly on your own personal growth. Building a brand takes a long time. Work hard and be patient throughout your journey.”
4.Manage your time wisely. “It can be very tough to manage a personal and professional life. You’re going to have to make sacrifices along the way. At the same time, do what you can to maintain a work-life balance.”
“This is your opportunity to test the waters.”
Overall, Gabe is pleased that he took the opportunity to complete an entrepreneurial work term and recommends the experience to other students as well. “This is your opportunity to test the waters. You’ll either fall in love with entrepreneurship, or realize it isn’t the path for you. Either way, it’s a very unique opportunity that shouldn’t be taken for granted. At the very least, you’re guaranteed to experience personal growth that you simply won’t find working for an organization as a typical co-op student.”