FastStart helping student entrepreneurs move forward

Sophia Mingram, an Advertising and Marketing graduate, stands outside the new FastStart office in the CFCE. Photo credit: Dakota Evans

Co-written by Peter Fitzpatrick

Among the many changes around Durham College (DC), the FastStart entrepreneurial program has moved out of its room in the B-wing and into the new Centre For Collaborative Education (CFCE).

FastStart is a program for students under 29 and gives them the tools and resources they need to grow their own businesses. These tools include help with branding, logo ideas and getting students in touch with business investors.

According to Sophia Mingram, the program’s marketing assistant, “most of the events that we do is mostly for you to get connected with your supporters in the community,” referring to the 12 business investors they associate with, including Spark Centre in Oshawa.

The program has helped launch more than 15 student-founded businesses and supports more than 50 existing businesses, according to Mingram. One of the student-founded businesses they helped grow is OhhFoods, founded by Brittany Charlton, a DC Law Clerk graduate.

OhhFoods makes allergen-free snacks, including bite-sized brownies and apple pie.

Charlton said she found out about FastStart on her way to class.

“I was walking down the hallway, saw FastStart, then it said ‘if you’re interested in starting or you have a business idea, come talk to us’ so that’s what I did,” Charlton said.

FastStart offers networking events to help introduce students to potential investors. Charlton attended three of these events before and after she graduated her program.

“I attended the last [networking event] that just happened and that was amazing too. Getting to speak on the panel and meet everyone that’s pretty much there that I didn’t get to meet (previously),” Charlton said.

According to Mingram, some of these networking events involve students pitching their product to investors while others are competitions in which students pitch to an audience, who ask questions regarding things like pricing and availability.

Prizes for the competitions include as much as $1,000, money that gets invested in the winner’s business, the amount depending on the size of the winner’s business requirements.

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Charlton is still in contact with FastStart.

“I still speak with them and anytime I need advice or anything I definitely do reach out and ask for help,” Charlton said.

OhhFoods is a growing business and has 32 followers on Twitter after joining last April.

In addition to OhhFoods, the DC program has helped companies like jmd alterations and design, who occasionally host pop-up shops on campus to sell their clothing through #dcshops, which is also sponsored by FastStart.

There are programs similar to FastStart at other colleges and universities.

For example, Twitter users can find UOIT’s offering at UOITBrilliant and Sir Sandford Fleming College’s via FastStartPTBO.

The program also provides support to DC faculty by adding entrepreneurial elements into courses and programs. FastStart has more than 25 partner programs across all DC schools.

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