Ryerson University – Canada’s Entrepreneurial Stronghold

By Paul Connor

Entrepreneurship is critical to the Canadian economy.  Canadians are excellent inventors, driven by the challenges of distance, environment, and resource extraction industries to create home-grown solutions where large corporations cannot. The diverse list of Canadians’ inventions, from peanut butter to walkie-talkies to standard time, always surprises people who don’t know Canada.  But without entrepreneurship, these great ideas would never reach the market.  Small and medium-size businesses create most Canadian jobs, and these entities are not formed by corporate managers in their hundreds, but by entrepreneurs in their hundreds of thousands. As well, the ongoing revolution in information and communications technology (ICT) has made more goods, services, and business models possible than ever before, in every industry and market.  This development is matched by the increasing ease of starting a new business thanks to ICT lowering initial and operating costs.  This redoubled explosion of possibility is brought to life by entrepreneurship, making it critical for the future prosperity of Canada.

For these reasons and others, candidates for the Master of Business Administration degree benefit from a thorough grounding in entrepreneurship.  It multiplies their chances of capitalizing on a creative national environment, of obtaining employment with existing entrepreneurial businesses, of starting their own new business, and of success in any future employment; ever more medium and large companies are decentralizing, joining the network age and otherwise becoming more entrepreneurial.

For all these reasons, it is wonderful to be able to relate how Ryerson University’s energizing role in Torontonian entrepreneurship continues to grow, with the advent of this year’s MBA cohort at the Ted Rogers School of Management.  Nearly two dozen MBA students have convened an entrepreneurship group within the MBA Student Association, and begun a series of roundtables about the intangibles of the start-up experience.  Various guest speakers will discuss the current start-up scene, investors’ expectations, growth prospects, their experiences getting underway, and more with this new group.  By the end of the school year, it is hoped that many members will be ready to create a formal business plan as part of their Masters’ degree, and carry it out, joining formal education to insights, inspiration, and shared experiences.

As a former executive director of a non-profit organizing Ontario’s Angel investors, it has been great to find like minded colleagues interested in helping an entrepreneur-focused student group get underway. Our first meeting with an outside speaker was well-attended, efficient and informative.  Jarrod Ladouceur (Ryerson MBA 2011), who runs an Angel investor group, Maple Leaf Angels, in Toronto, gave the MBA students a clear view of Toronto’s start-up environment and a great first initiation into entrepreneurial thinking. At the master’s level, the MBA students’ entrepreneur group comprises a sizable fraction of the total cohort for 2012-13.

As well as complementing students’ formal studies of new business development, the MBA entrepreneur group hopes increase connectivity to nearby networks and organizations nurturing new businesses.  This student-led initiative shows that support for, and interest in, entrepreneurship in the Ryerson MBA has reached critical mass in a very short time.  Formal elements of this critical mass include, of course, the Entrepreneurship majors and minors offered in Ryerson’s undergraduate Bachelor of Commerce program, and a variety of options for MBA student interested in courses in entrepreneurship, the Ryerson Angel Network of investors (part of Ontario’s Angel Network Program), and the Digital Media Zone start-up accelerator.  Informal elements include the new MBA student entrepreneurs group itself, the vibrant Students in Free Enterprise chapter at Ryerson, the university’s extensive annual celebrations of Global Entrepreneurship Week (taking place this year from November 12th to 18th), StartMeUp Ryerson, and the entrepreneurial orientation of others at Ryerson such as the Fashion department, and the Ryerson Commerce and Government Association. Across campus, an increasing number of students are enrolling in other programs at Ryerson University that also support entrepreneurship, out of attraction to the entrepreneurial ethos here.

Ryerson University is truly becoming Canada’s entrepreneurial stronghold.

Paul Connor, currently a full-time student in Ryerson University’s MBA program, was most recently President & Executive Director of the Network of Angel Organizations – Ontario, a non-profit funded by the federal and provincial governments to organize and grow Angel investor groups across the province of Ontario. Prior to this, Paul pursued a career in business communications and election-related activities upon graduation from the University of Toronto and, later, Seneca College’s post-graduate certificate program in Corporate Communications.

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