Students bolster local tech entrepreneur start-ups

February 17, 2016
Bachelor of Commerce student Kelsey Carragher discusses marketing ideas with her client.

After stepping out of her comfort zone to move across the country with little more than her dog and a tent, Kelsey Carragher began pursuing her educational goal in the Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management program last fall and now feels empowered to help local entrepreneurs on their journey.

Carragher is one of 35 Royal Roads students teaming up with eight entrepreneurs from VIATEC’s Accelerate Tectoria program to create marketing plans for the start-ups. Likening her risk-taking and acceptance of uncertainty to the approach of a new entrepreneur, Carragher expects to learn plenty from the experience and hopes to become an entrepreneur herself one day.

“Working with any new group of people teaches you a tonne,” says Carragher. “Getting to work with people who are doing what you might end up doing is the best opportunity to learn. As far as teaching people real-life experience, this is as tangible as it gets inside of a school. And I’m learning not just from the clients, but from my group members, our professors, my classmates and everyone in this community.”

VIATEC (Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council) serves as a one-stop hub connecting people, knowledge and resources to grow and promote the Greater Victoria technology sector. VIATEC Chief Operating Officer and Program Director Rob Bennett says first-time tech entrepreneurs usually don't have the marketing experience and expertise to create their go-to-market strategy. 

“One of the tricks for an early-stage entrepreneur is to surround themselves with people who are capable of offering constructive criticism to help validate and flesh out plans,” says Bennett. “Royal Roads students possess the skills, passion and enthusiasm to help these entrepreneurs reach their markets more quickly, and more effectively.”

The students met with their clients in late January and have five weeks to produce proposals based on the start-up’s goals before pitching to their clients and a panel of judges in early March. This marks the second year Royal Roads students collaborated with VIATEC and due to the success of the first year, the initiative was oversubscribed with entrepreneurs who wanted to participate this time around.

One of those entrepreneurs is Chris Warner from The Good Food Chain, a start-up focused on making high quality local food more accessible and affordable, by bringing the farmer’s market online. He hopes to collapse the current distribution chain by setting up community distribution hubs in easily accessible locations like places of work, schools, universities, community centers and apartment buildings. Warner says by connecting the consumer direct to the farmer they significantly reduce the need for storage, waste and the middle man.

“We’re going to get a better idea of who our target customer is – I mean really narrowing it down. That’s what we hope to get from this,” says Warner. “It’s a real-world problem, quite a big problem and something that’s very topical, so the students are in a position to get some good experience and actually apply it to a real business.”

School of Business Associate Faculty member Marc Stoiber who teaches the marketing course says students will experience what happens in the business world with real people, problems and budgets and how they will work on solutions to these problems.

“The real world is messy and that’s what is so good about this experience. You’re not going to find anything messier than a start-up,” says Stoiber.  “They don’t have the discipline of a bigger organization – it’s fly by the seat of your pants. If students can deal with this, they can deal with anything.”

Find out more about the Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management program on the School of Business website.