FastStart helps open doors for student entrepreneurs

Devon Theriault and Rebecca Holmes helping out at the launch of FastStart

A team of UOIT graduates that was once in need of its own entrepreneurial advisors was able to pay it forward with their own advice at the launch of a new student, business-oriented initiative called FastStart.

National ProStaff is a social platform created by three UOIT graduates that helps connect anglers with sponsors.

“I like to refer to us as the TSN/Facebook/LinkedIn of fishing,” said Dan Miguel, director of sales and marketing for National ProStaff.

The Pit at Durham College was decorated with young entrepreneurs Jan. 28 for the launch of the new partnership program. DC and UOIT are working alongside Trent University, Sir Sandford Fleming College, Spark Centre and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster to help students who want to become their own bosses.

“FastStart is an initiative to support students who are interested in exploring entrepreneurship,” said Debbie Mckee Demczyk, Durham College’s director of the Office of Research Services and Innovation.

As a part of FastStart’s launch Durham College has opened up a new space called The Vibe in room B223. Students can go to The Vibe for assistance with anything related to entrepreneurship, offering access to advisory services, opportunities and networks that students may have not known were available.

“We’ve partnered with FastStart to come in and promote what Spark Centre does and how we help entrepreneurs in Durham Region,” said Amanda Reynolds, public relations and media manager for the Spark Centre.

Spark Centre is a local not-for-profit that provides a variety of services and hosts events for entrepreneurs.

Taylor Murray is the founder of Acouskins, a company that contended last year at Ignite Durham, an event hosted by the Spark Centre. Murray attended the FastStart launch with an acoustic guitar and a few of her designs.

“Acouskins are fabric guitar covers, they’re designed for self-expression,” said Murray.

Acouskins didn’t win in its Ignite Durham category but that hasn’t stopped Murray from pursuing her entrepreneurial dream.

“I’d like to see them become a band merch option, so band’s artwork and album artwork, logos, they can all be featured on the skins,” she said.

The Student Association has also partnered with FastStart DC to offer 10 full-time students an all-expenses paid trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Winners will get to attend the Starting Point Student Entrepreneurship Conference at St. Mary’s University. The conference theme is “Revolutionary Ideas Change the World” and takes place Feb. 18 to 20.

“There’s a tremendous ecosystem to support entrepreneurship here in Durham Region that is ready to explode,” added Demczyk.

FastStart is the groundwork for what local entrepreneurs hope inspires students to pursue that idea idling in the back of their head.