As president of a modern and progressive 21st-century university, with colleagues and an extensive alumni network driving innovation across all sectors, I am often asked how York is supporting our next generation of entrepreneurs. The answer is through York’s well-established interdisciplinary programs highlighting leadership and inclusive excellence. With these initiatives, the University is providing the innovators of tomorrow with the skills, support and space needed to develop novel ideas for positive change. There has never been a greater need for this than now.
Job market uncertainty, increased reliance on e-commerce innovations and the changing nature of work have propelled approximately one in four Canadians to start their own business, according to the 2022 Intuit Entrepreneurship Report. The role entrepreneurs play in flourishing economies through job creation is well-documented; their innovative solutions and products are central to solving complex global challenges. They form the fabric of healthy, sustainable communities. But entrepreneurs need more than disruptive ideas to be successful. They need opportunities for sharing ideas, working in teams and accessing resources – all of which York provides.
YSpace for instance, offers 14 tailored programs to support diverse entrepreneurs and startups from ideation to growth across the tech, food and beverage, service and product industries. Incorporated into York’s pan-university entrepreneurship hub is ELLA – Ontario’s first accelerator that focuses on women-led businesses. Aspiring entrepreneurs benefit from access to mentorship from seasoned leaders, educational workshops and partner resources to take their ventures to the next level. York’s entrepreneurship programs have catalyzed significant growth, both locally and globally. Since its inception in 2018, YSpace has supported 538 ventures, generating more than $119 million in revenue. One such venture, It’s Souper, an Afro-fusion soup and sauce line, recently signed with one of Canada’s largest distributors, taking their recipes national.
Likewise, Schulich Startups – an accelerator-incubator for Schulich alumni and students – supports more than 1,000 entrepreneurs through an impressive roster of alumni connections, offering mentorship, work placement opportunities and more. York also has several other highly regarded, faculty-specific entrepreneurship programs, including Lassonde’s Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology Lab and Osgoode’s IP Innovation Clinic, which offer programs for engineering and law students.
Through the Government of Canada’s $3-million investment in the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance, YSpace partnered with the Black Creek Community Health Centre and others to offer incubator and accelerator programs (including workshops, mini-MBA courses and mentorship) to support more than 350 Black Canadian entrepreneurs and young professionals in Humber River–Black Creek over the next three years. Other programs, such as Accelerate Newmarket, a partnership between York, the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce and Treefrog Inc., is expected to aid approximately 300 Newmarket entrepreneurs and business owners impacted by the pandemic to reskill and scale up come spring.
Strong entrepreneurship fosters resilient, sustainable communities. By working with community partners and provincial and federal governments, York is committed to righting the future and supporting entrepreneurs to create positive change. To learn how you can get involved, email email@example.com or visit yspace.yorku.ca/. ■