When you think of entrepreneurship, what is the first thing that comes to mind? An individual who takes the risk of starting their own business? What if I told you, there’s an opportunity for you to join these risk-takers on an adventure for four months during your CO-OP term with a start-up?
My name is Mathieu Dubois and I am a 4th year Commerce student specializing in Marketing at the Telfer School of Management. I am currently participating in my second, out of three, required placements. Last May, I was selected to participate in the RBC CO-OP Entrepreneurship Program with a vegan craft ice cream company called Oat & Mill.
Oat & Mill is an oat-based vegan craft ice cream company manufactured in Smith Falls, Ontario. The founder, Candace Tierney, also went to the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. In 2015 she decided to start her entrepreneurship journey in the food industry. Candace has been vegan for the last seven years and developed a plant-based ice cream to overcome her craving of dairy filled ice cream. Over the next four months, I will be helping her with various hands-on tasks, while understanding the hard work and dedication that falls behind the scenes of entrepreneurs start-up companies. This experience will allow me to gain valuable insights surrounding the path taken by these risk-takers who are in search of creating a unique service or product.
Joining the CO-OP program allows individuals like myself to gain full-time professional work experience in your field of study for 4 months at a time. Placements allow you to learn from professionals while building a set of necessary skills. From building strong relationships with employees to accomplish a variety of tasks, the placements offered allow you to better understand potential options in your field. Initially, I planned to work in a different sector, but through experience, my ideal future career path has been altered. I plan to continue exploring my options over the course of my final year at the University of Ottawa in the CO-OP program.
While my first CO-OP placement was with the Telfer School of Management in the marketing department, I focused on the back-end of marketing with digital advertisements campaigns. Though-out my time in the digital marketing specialist position, I grew to understand the importance of digital marketing and the continuous pressing need for companies to use this technique.
For my second CO-OP, I was in search of something different. This is when I ended up finding the RBC uOttawa Entrepreneurship Program. Throughout the process, I got the chance to meet with seven of the nine companies selected to participate in the program. Through-out the interview with Oat & MIll, I had a great feeling about the team and sparked great conversation with the founder in the 30 minutes we spent chatting. Another unique aspect of the job that she advertised in the interview was that I would get to travel to promote the company and create brand awareness through vegan festivals and trade shows in Toronto, Montreal, London and Niagara Falls. I always wanted to have a better understanding of front-line customer service and this was a great opportunity to explore this.
Over the last three weeks, I have had to opportunity to participate in two vegan festivals, one in Toronto and the other in Montreal. Additionally, I got to attend a tradeshow in Toronto which was a business-to-business focus. I had the chance to explore the world of veganism while understanding the interest of customers in oat-based ice cream. I was blown away by the constant line of 50-60 people (as seen in the picture below) waiting to be served our vegan ice cream. Throughout these few weeks, I have interacted with staff and customers to better understand the niche market Oat & Mill is competing in. It has allowed me to use my marketing skill-set to identify the potential next steps that can be taken. I am thrilled to see what the future holds for my few months working at Oat & Mill.
From a young age, entrepreneurship has always been a great interest. It’s impressive to see individuals investing their time and money into something they truly believe in. Through hard work, passion, dedication, and risk, they work toward a particular goal that they want to achieve. It’s remarkable to understand and witness the number of hours they spend on their company to give it the best possible chance of success. While working alongside Candace for the past three weeks, I have learned that entrepreneurship is not only a full-time job but a lifestyle. From making vegan ice cream to decision-making, there’s not a moment of relaxation.
The RBC uOttawa CO-OP Entrepreneurship Program is an opportunity for all University students like myself, to get out of their comfort zones. Students from all faculties at the University of Ottawa are eligible to apply to this program. Upon selection, three options will be offered to you: starting your own business, an entrepreneurial apprenticeship, or a placement in a start-up. If this program interest you, feel free to visit the RBC CO-OP Entrepreneurship Program.
To the University of Ottawa and RBC, I sincerely thank you for this opportunity of allowing students and young professionals to be part of such a rewarding program. This not only benefits start-up companies, but allows students to immerse themselves in the start-up world, which gives you a better understanding of all the sacrifices, the number of hours and the willingness it takes to achieve success.