Four businesses developed by young entrepreneurs will get a funding boost

(© Can Stock Photo / dolgachov)

Four young entrepreneurs are each getting a grant and advice to help their business ventures succeed.

The Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership (SLEP) said the four entrepreneurs chosen for the 2021 Summer Company Program demonstrated the ability to operate a business during the COVID-19 pandemic, using e-commerce solutions and contactless frameworks.

“These young entrepreneurs demonstrate the innovation that will be of great value to our local economy, and we are proud to provide this program to help start them off on the right foot,” said SLEP CEO Stephen Thompson.

SLEP Development Coordinator Chantelle Core said this year’s program received a high number of applications.

“Last year we had record numbers of interest in the program and I think this year we still saw quite a few students looking for alternative opportunities to learn, and grow, and experience entrepreneurship throughout the summer,” she said.

The Summer Company Program has been running for 22 years in Sarnia-Lambton as part of a joint initiative between the SLEP and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade.

“[It’s] a great opportunity for students to experience entrepreneurship while they are still in school so that in the future, they have the confidence and knowledge required to start and launch a successful business down the road,” said Core.

The program is offered to students between the ages of 15 and 29.

The youngest entrepreneur selected this year is a Grade 10 student at St. Patrick’s Catholic High School who started Hillcrest Heritage Home Goods. Jayme McCully’s business produces and sells natural, cruelty-free cleaning supplies and soaps.

“This year, the program had quite a wide age range,” said Core.

A couple of post-secondary students were also selected for the summer program. Matt Mueller started Mueller Tennis Services to offer lessons and stringing services to maintain rackets. Muller is a business student studying through Huron at Western University.

Meanwhile, Wilfrid Laurier University business student Jack Vrolyk was selected after launching Jack’s Grass Cutting business. Vrolyk offers lawn care services to residents in Sarnia and Point Edward and currently has over 30 customers.

Anthony Clark was also selected for this year’s program because of his business, ASHR Media. Clark offers web design, graphic design, and business consulting services through his business. Clark recently graduated from  Lambton College.

Core said aside from receiving a $3,000 grant, each of the four recipients will be able to participate in a 12-week mentorship and training program over the summer.

One of this year’s mentors will be a program graduate, Jared Waller. He completed the Summer Company Program in 2018 and has put his skills to use during the pandemic by providing 3D printed personal protective equipment.

“He has been hired as a former Summer Company alumni to act as our small business intern and Summer Company coach for the four students that we have this year,” said Core.

She also said it’s common to see program graduates continue their business and expand it over the years.

“It’s been a trend we’ve seen over the last few years. Originally the program didn’t allow students to continue the operation of their business as a student but that changed a number of years ago,” she said.

The Summer Company Program typically starts to accept application in January and February. Core said SLEP also works with students ahead of the intake period in order to develop a strong business plan. Interested future applicants can email smallbusiness@sarnialambton.on.ca or call (519) 332-1820.