Nathalie Slight | Journalist
Université de Sherbrooke students dreaming of running their own businesses one day are now in better hands than ever, benefitting from an exceptional environment in which to fully develop their business acumen and kindle their entrepreneurial spirit.
Over the next ten years, 100,000 Quebec companies will be looking for new owners. It's critical that the next generation of entrepreneurs be ready to take over. To make sure it is, Desjardins Group has decided to team up with Université de Sherbrooke. In February, it contributed $2.5 million toward the creation of the Desjardins Accelerator for Entrepreneurial Practices, which will provide young entrepreneurs like Florence Aumont and Jérémy Laplante-Chapdelaine with unprecedented support in their training.
The entrepreneurship concentration in the university's undergraduate program in business administration is a veritable breeding ground for entrepreneurs. "I've always had a knack for organization, so studying administration was a natural choice for me. And since I want to be a hands-on person more than anything else, I gravitated toward entrepreneurship," explains Florence Aumont. Jérémy Laplante-Chapdelaine's reasons for enrolling were different: "I don't come from a family of entrepreneurs, but I love a good challenge. That's what drew me to entrepreneurship. Building a real business project from A to Z, with all the challenges that entails--it's exciting."
Support from mentors
During their first term, Florence Aumont, Jérémy Laplante-Chapdelaine and several of their classmates established Histoire d'un week-end: a small travel company specializing in weekend trips for students. "The City of Sherbrooke welcomes students from all across Quebec and even from abroad. Our company's goal is to provide short one- or two-day getaways at affordable prices," notes Florence. Having a strong ally like Desjardins by their side allows students to get the support they need as they learn the ropes. "There are always going to be challenges when starting a new business. The Desjardins Accelerator for Entrepreneurial Practices gives us access to personalized coaching (Desjardins advisor, regional business people). Having mentors around to guide us helps things go so much faster. And if we stumble on the way, as is sure to happen with any startup, we get back up and keep going!" says Jérémy.
The next generation of entrepreneurs
L'histoire d'un week-end will live on for a term, after which our two aspiring entrepreneurs will move on to other business adventures as they continue their studies, inching toward their ultimate goals of starting their own businesses, which may well become the project of a lifetime once they have their degrees in hand. "For now, I'm working on acquiring more tools and experience and expanding my business network. I think I've found where I belong. The business world is calling--who knows where it'll take me?" muses Florence. As for Jérémy, there's no denying that he has the entrepreneurial drive. "I have a few startup ideas in mind--I definitely want to start my own business. As a student, knowing that an institution like Desjardins supports the entrepreneurial spirit of people like me really encourages me to continue down that path."