UBC Okanagan Expands Entrepreneurial Training

To date, more than 250 innovators, risk-takers and problem-solvers have developed their entrepreneurial skills through the e@UBCO program. Through this “dedicated incubator,” UBCO students, faculty, staff and alumni learn how to test their startup ideas, build connections and develop the skills needed to create successful ventures.

Sandra Spencer joined UBCO in mid-2022 as Innovation Manager to help take e@UBCO to a new level. Spencer worked in the innovation environment for over 10 years in Alberta and BC. She is past Senior Innovation Advisor with Innovation Canada, and has operated her own consultancy for several years, working directly with startups on raising capital, commercialization and business modelling.

One of the e@UBCO foundational courses is eDiscovery, a five-part workshop series combined with self-directed online training provided by Impact Toolbox. Delivered in partnership with Accelerate Okanagan which focuses on technology driven ventures, eDiscovery helps individuals develop entrepreneurial thinking, whether or not they plan to launch a new business.

Another core program, Mentor2Market provides access to resources that help participants build and validate their concepts by working in teams with experienced mentors. Over 65 hours of mentoring will be provided by 20 mentors in the community during the current 2023 cohort.

New Programming Focuses on Experiential Learning

In 2022, e@UBCO applied to the Economic Trust of Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) for funding to expand its already successful program. The project was a good fit with ETSI-BC and its strategic pillars, including Supporting Business Resilience and Growth, and Developing Human Capital. The ETSI-BC funding has enabled e@UBCO to tweak its existing programming and introduce more experiential, hands-on training. Experiential learning helps to develop an entrepreneurial mindset by bridging the gap between theory learned in the classroom and active participation.

The Geminator for example, is a series of meetups where participants explore ideas about commercialization, entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship (when employees innovate within a business or organization). The e@UBCO Venture Spotlight and Social, first held in November 2022 and again this past March, brings together e@UBCO students, community members and mentors to network while showcasing projects that have evolved out of the Mentor2Market program.

The program also piloted its Startup Sprint event in January, a hands-on weekend that walks participants through the steps and tools of starting a company.. The 3 day program is a “living lab on campus” says Spencer, where participants are supported by a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds from first year students to PhDs.  They learn to collaborate and brainstorm, and develop leadership and decision-making skills under intense time constraints.  The January workshop received 80 applicants and was delivered at full capacity to 30 people.

Community Outreach Grows

“The last several months have been a transition stage as we created, marketed and delivered new training options and monitored their value to aspiring entrepreneurs,” says Spencer. Two new staff have been hired to support the growing program: Kayla Cartlidge, e@UBCO Program Manager, and a Community Coordinator set to start in April 2023. Entrepreneur in Residence, Ty Summach is on the e@UBCO team part-time.

“We are exploring ways of incorporating entrepreneurial content into other UBCO programs and with clubs and organizations that also promote entrepreneurial development,” adds Spencer.  Speaker events have also been held to engage more women in entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurs drive the development of new products and services, creating jobs and accelerating economic growth in a region,” points out Laurel Douglas, CEO of ETSI-BC. “The Trust is proud to support e@UBCO in providing timely, relevant training for our future entrepreneurs.”

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