Young entrepreneurs learn the ropes

·4 min read

A group of young people from the area experienced being their own bosses this summer.

The Leeds Grenville Small Business Centre wrapped up its annual Summer Company program on Thursday.

The program gives hands-on business training and mentoring to participants, who receive an award of up to $1,500 in early summer to help with business start-up costs, and an additional $1,500 in the fall upon the successful completion of the program and proof of returning to school.

This summer, five young entrepreneurs in Leeds and Grenville used their creative talents and community support to operate their businesses.

The wrap-up event took place in the council chambers at the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands municipal office. This was the 22nd year the program was delivered.

Arianna Bennett, 16, of Gananoque, served up lots of colour this summer with her business, The Islands Sweet Treats. She sold fresh cotton candy and flavoured shaved ice.

Bennett will continue to sell at events in the early fall and her cotton candy may even appear in local stores through the winter. She is returning to Gananoque Intermediate and Secondary School this fall for Grade 12.

"Nobody else, I noticed, in the markets I went to had anything like it (flavoured shaved ice)," said Bennett.

Emily Jollota, 19, of Brockville, with her business, Jollota Designs, used her artistic talents to create resin art this summer. She made jewelry, bookmarks, keychains, charcuterie boards and more.

Jollota sold her products at the Brockville Farmers' Market this year. She will continue to make resin art this fall. Jollota is returning to Laurentian University for her second year in business.

"I saw one TikTok video about this, fell in love with it and decided to go with it," Jollota laughed. "It was a really wonderful experience. I’m a natural receptionist as a job of mine, so I know how to talk to people, get conversations started, taking feedback in, and it was all such a wonderful experience. Being at such a busy market it was lots of fun."

Evan Munro, 18, of Brockville, provided one-on-one basketball training sessions and group basketball skills training at different locations this summer with I Believe Training. He catered his training to any skill level and a range of ages from six-year-olds to teens.

Munro said he enjoyed sharing his skills and knowledge with young people and learned a lot from his experience. Munro is beginning his first year at Queen's University in health sciences. Munro is also the winner of the Growth Award this year and received an additional $200 for his efforts.

"My model was, instead of the parents driving the kids somewhere for one hour of work, I would go to their house, eliminate the 30-minute drive or however long it would take them (to get to me), and I’d instead go to them. It gives them the opportunity to stay at home and still get the training," he said.

Janevra Pier, 17, of Gananoque, baked up fresh vegan sourdough bagels using locally sourced flour with her business, called Bakery by the Pier. She also experimented with vegan spreads to accompany the bagels as well as other sweet, wholesome treats.

Pier sold her bagels at the markets and events around Gananoque and online. She will continue her business on a casual basis this fall. She is returning to Gananoque Intermediate Secondary School this fall for her Grade 12 year. Pier is the winner of the Award of Excellence. She received an additional $200 for her work this summer.

"The goal was to emphasize local ingredients," she said. "It was a community-based bakery. I had heard about this program a while ago, and with my family always being passionate about cooking, I wasn’t seeing cooking with values behind them that aligned with my own. So, I wanted to emphasize local food, organic foods, sustainable farming and show that that's a viable business model. This was a passion project for me, with values that I was brought up with that are really important to me. My grandfather was a farmer so it's kind of a full circle experience."

Jack Sloan, 18, of Elizabethtown-Kitley, provided lawn care, edging, pressure washing, window cleaning and other property enhancement services, in and around Brockville this summer, with Good Neighbour Lawn Care.

Sloan said he wanted to instill that feeling of goodwill and neighbourliness as he helped people with their outdoor work. He feels like he achieved that. Sloan was announced as the highest earner this summer. He is heading to Wilfred Laurier University this fall to start a degree in business administration.

"I did all the jobs you didn't want to," Sloan joked. "The skills I gained are all skills I'll take moving forward, as I get older and eventually move into my own house. It's valuable skills. And I was meeting and interacting with people. It was great.”

(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)

Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times