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Concordia can help you take the next step with your business idea

Sign up to ‘Rocket Pitches’ for the chance to participate in the Dobson Practicum and win $5,000
September 30, 2015
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By Danielle Ker

Victor Barbaros and Vanessa Cherenfant of Elysia with Cameron Fortin of the John Dobson Foundation and Ronald Abraira, Dobson Practicum coordinator | Photo: Concordia University Victor Barbaros and Vanessa Cherenfant of Elysia with Cameron Fortin of the John Dobson Foundation and Ronald Abraira, Dobson Practicum coordinator | Photo: Concordia University

That business idea in the back of your mind could become a reality, thanks to Concordia’s Dobson Practicum. Now in its fifth year, the program uses hands-on learning to encourage Concordia entrepreneurs to start their own ventures.

Sabrina Grassi, founder of Sabrina’s Closet: "Not only was I able to learn so much from my mentor on a weekly basis, but I took a lot of the things that I learned and applied them to my online business." Sabrina Grassi, founder of Sabrina’s Closet: "Not only was I able to learn so much from my mentor on a weekly basis, but I took a lot of the things that I learned and applied them to my online business."

The program is funded by the John Dobson Foundation and was started by John Molson School of Business (JMSB) professors Ronald Abraira and Tim Field. Speaker events and other activities are organized with the help of the Enactus Concordia team.

Participants in the practicum are paired with mentors and receive assistance with their business plans. They also have the chance to enter the $EED Competition next April, where they will get to pitch their idea to industry professionals and compete to win up to $5,000 in seed money for their businesses.

The practicum is open to both current students and graduates who convocated in 2015. Those interested are encouraged to sign up for Rocket Pitches, which gives participants five minutes to present their idea to the program’s mentors, who then select the top 20 for the practicum.

Alexandre Brazeau, founder of Charge@: “The Dobson Practicum helped me identify and value opportunities through its $EED competition,”  | Photo courtesy of A. Brazeau. Alexandre Brazeau, founder of Charge@: “The Dobson Practicum helped me identify and value opportunities through its $EED competition,” | Photo courtesy of A. Brazeau.

Past winners include Alexandre Brazeau, founder of Charge@; Sabrina Grassi, founder of Sabrina’s Closet; Angelo Esposito and Steven Scalia, co-founders of Bottle Bookings; Jonathan Bercu, founder of Paradox Interfaces; Victor Barbaros and Vanessa Cherenfant, founders of Elysia; and Changhyun Ahn and Jasmit Heera of CardioRescue.

As well as winning the $EED competition in 2014, Brazeau pitched on Dans l'oeil du dragon, the Quebec version of the Dragons’ Den. His business has been experiencing high growth and he recently landed an important client. “The Dobson Practicum helped me identify and value opportunities through its $EED competition,” says Brazeau.

Since winning second place in the 2014 $EED competition, Grassi has started a second online business (Coveted Basics) with a partner and continues to grow Sabrina’s Closet. “Not only was I able to learn so much from my mentor on a weekly basis, but I took a lot of the things that I learned and applied them to my online business,” she says.

Bottle Bookings founders Steven Scalia (left) and Angelo Esposito. | Photo by Maxellende Pycke Bottle Bookings founders Steven Scalia (left) and Angelo Esposito. | Photo by Maxellende Pycke

Scalia also found the feedback from the mentors invaluable, since it exposed his team to a different perspective on their operations and the challenges lying ahead. “The adjustments to our business plan suggested by our mentors not only allowed us to claim a monetary prize in the practicum, but also made for a more efficient go-to-market strategy.” Since the practicum, Scalia and Esposito have started a second business: Night Post, which makes software for event-based venues.

Bercu entered the Dobson Practicum with hopes of starting a business, but he had little money, no guidance and zero experience writing a business plan. “I was paired up with Klemen Ferjan, and it was a blast. We spent about a month learning my strengths and, more importantly, identifying my weaknesses to improve them,” he says.

"Participating in the practicum has been a rewarding experience for our team,” says Cherenfant. “We had the opportunity to be connected with a great mentor who was in our field and gave us valuable insights into the industry and our company. The feedback and coaching we received definitely prepared us to win the top prize.”

Changhyun Ahn and Jasmit Heera of CardioRescue with Greg Adelstein, JMSB entrepreneur-in-residence, and Ronald Abraira, Dobson Practicum coordinator | Photo: Concordia University Changhyun Ahn and Jasmit Heera of CardioRescue with Greg Adelstein, JMSB entrepreneur-in-residence, and Ronald Abraira, Dobson Practicum coordinator | Photo: Concordia University

Heera says the Dobson Practicum was a key step in helping her and her partner to further expand their business. “Our mentor was absolutely fantastic! His guidance not only allowed us to overcome obstacles new entrepreneurs experience, but we also learned to develop a business plan and be confident.”

Not only did Ahn and Heera work closely with their mentor, they also received invaluable feedback from judges and other mentors.

“The Dobson Practicum allows young entrepreneurs to bring their vision to reality, and we highly recommend anyone with an idea to participate,” says Heera.

Are you a Concordia student entrepreneur or recent graduate? Sign up for Rocket Pitches today for your chance to be part of the 2015-2016 Dobson Practicum.

For everything you need to know about participating in the Dobson Practicum, download the information package.

Compete nationally for $10,000 to grow your business

Student entrepreneurs in search of funding for their enterprise can also enter the Enactus Canada Student Entrepreneur National Competition, hosted by the John Dobson Foundation. The deadline for nominations and self-nominations is Friday, November 30.

Open to all full-time students at Canadian universities or colleges who are running their own businesses, the competition serves as a platform for young leaders to network with like-minded students, showcase their commercial undertaking in front of top executives and leading entrepreneurs, and accelerate its growth.

The Student Entrepreneur National Champion receives a $10,000 cash prize and the John Dobson Cup.

Find out more about the Enactus Canada Student Entrepreneur National Competition.



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