Supporting entrepreneurial dreams for 25 years
The Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship celebrates a quarter century of success
The Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship (SCCE) at the Asper School of Business is celebrating 25 years of supporting the entrepreneurial dreams of University of Manitoba students. With 500+ Venture Coach meetings, more than $750,000 in prize money given to student ventures, and with 1250+ students from all over North America having participated in SCCE competitions – there’s lots to celebrate.
In 1997, through the vision of Izzy Asper and the Asper Foundation, the Asper Centre for Entrepreneurship was created to help encourage and support Manitoba’s next generation of entrepreneurs. In 2008, the Centre received a generous donation from University of Manitoba alum, Stu Clark [BComm(Hons)/76, LLD/2011] resulting in rebranding to the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship. And throughout the 25 years, the Centre has continuously been supported by The Associates of the Asper School of Business.
Today, the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship continues to be a resource available to all UM students. They offer a variety of programs and events to encourage the development of strong entrepreneurial competencies such as resilience, collaboration, and critical thinking, in addition to offering support for starting businesses.
“The entrepreneurial journey is not a road that can be walked alone,” says Debra Jonasson-Young, I.H. Asper Executive Director of Entrepreneurship. “We are here to help fuel Manitoba and Canada’s economy by creating opportunities for future entrepreneurs at the University of Manitoba. Whether that’s through programs, competitions, or coaching, we are here to walk that journey with them.”
Thanks to SCCE’s support, over the past three decades, many students have succeeded in their entrepreneurial journey from their first big idea to the launch of a profitable business. While there are many stories to share, here a few highlights:
UM student wins business pitch competition
Graham Taylor’s first place finish at the 2022 Stu Clark New Venture Championships: Graduate business plan competition is one for the history books. He was the first UM student to win the competition since 2008. Taylor competed against 16 teams who were selected out of more than 50 submissions.
In the final round, he beat out teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Arkansas and Johns Hopkins University. Besides bragging rights and a sense of accomplishment, Graham also took home a $20,000 cash prize. The funds have helped him with his business plan — bringing Rogue Processing to life. Rogue Processing will be the first company in Manitoba to specialize in packing for Rogue Botanical and other cannabis cultivators in the prairies and Ontario.
Venture Coach Program
In 2017, SCCE launched the Venture Coach Program. Staff at the Centre saw there was a knowledge gap between students coming up with their big idea and bringing that idea to life.
Today, the Venture Coach program is a free resource available to UM students looking for advice on idea vetting, financial modeling, capital raising, marketing research, and crafting your business plan. They help students get started and keep them connected with Manitoba’s vast entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Back in 2008, Michele Romanow participated in the New Venture Championships where she pitched her business idea – Evandale Caviar – and took home second place. Today, Romanow is known as a tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and for her role as a fierce investor on Dragon’s Den. Fourteen years later, SCCE welcomed Romanow back as a guest speaker during the 2022 Stu Clark New Venture Championships. Romanow, the co-founder of Clearco, has made the list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, the Forbes Top 20 Most Disruptive Millennials on a Mission, and a recipient of the Canadian Innovation Awards Angel Investor of the Year.
Pivoting to webinars during the pandemic
At the beginning of the pandemic, the SCCE team realized that the entrepreneurial community needed easy access to resources during uncertain times. They quickly pivoted to bi-weekly webinars focused on key entrepreneurial components like financial projects, building an entrepreneurial mindset and business development strategies. SCCE webinars featured business leaders including Amanda Buhse (Coal & Canary), Silvia de Sousa (IP Lawyer, TDS), and motivational speaker Eric Termuende.
Branching out to the larger U of M Community
In 2020, SCCE was invited to collaborate with the Faculty of Science to offer the first ever science entrepreneurial mindset course. In 2023, we will see the third offering of that course with science expanding to include the Price Faculty of Engineering.
SCCE has been active in co-leading the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) in Manitoba in support of expanding women’s entrepreneurship in Canada. This initiative was critically important in connecting the Manitoba ecosystem during the pandemic.
On the horizon
As they continue to evolve, the SCCE is ready to launch an exciting new initiative. Slated for early 2023, the centre plans to launch a mentorship platform that will connect entrepreneurs with specific questions to experts and peers in various fields for tactical meetings to drive their progress forward. This will allow the centre to reach many more students.
“One of the greatest attributes about Manitoba’s business community is they are willing to give back. Year after year, we are thrilled to see the number of volunteers who actively commit their time and talents to SCCE initiatives.” says Jonasson-Young. “I look forward to continuing those strong relationships as we move into the next 25 years.”