“I think all CEOs, chairs, entrepreneurs and senior management have an obligation to make our minds and experiences available to the kids who will one day be us.”
“The Biz Camps have become one of the most important outreach programs of the University of Manitoba.”
Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship
The various programs offered by the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship have a single goal: encourage and support the growth of Manitoba’s next generation of community leaders. The centre accomplishes this goal through its educational programs; nurturing current and potential entrepreneurs and creating a healthy, competitive environment. Encouraging entrepreneurial behaviour among the students it reaches not only fosters the formation of new business but also shows how entrepreneurial thoughts and practices can help improve the operation of large corporations and the public sector. The Asper Foundation contributed the original $1 million to the University of Manitoba’s I.H. Asper School of Business to establish the Asper Centre for Entrepreneurship in 1997. This original support was greatly enhanced in 2008 by a $5 million donation by University of Manitoba alum and successful oil and gas entrepreneur, Stu Clark. In recognition of his generous support the centre was renamed in his honour on April 1, 2008 (click here). On that same date it was decided to acknowledge the pioneering role played by The Asper Foundation along with their continuing participation in several of the Stu Clark Centre’s programs by naming the executive director’s position in honour of Dr. I.H. Asper. Thus as of April 1, 2008, this position is known as the I.H. Asper Executive Director for Entrepreneurship.
Curry BizCamp in Entrepreneurship
Operated by the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship and sponsored by the Peter D. Curry Memorial Fund, the Curry BizCamp is a summer program for youth between the ages of 13-20 years who are interested in entrepreneurship but lack the resources and encouragement to pursue this interest. Youth in this program are generally drawn from lower socio-economic backgrounds or identified as being at-risk of some form of unhealthy behaviour, e.g. substance abuse, gang involvement, truancy, unplanned pregnancy, etc. Participants in the program attend at no cost and are provided with transportation and daily lunches. Two versions of the program are offered depending on the age of the youth involved with 12-14 year olds attending a one week program and 15-20 year olds attending a three-week camp.
Regardless of the program’s length the camp follows a similar model that combines classroom work, guest speakers, field trips and team building exercises to teach the youth what it’s like to become an entrepreneur. Many of the skills learned – the science of investing, art of negotiation, importance of teamwork and interacting with others – benefit the youth in all aspects of their lives. By the end of the program, participants must complete a business plan and present it to a panel of local business people. Cash awards are given to the top three plans and the top overall student in the three-week program receives a one-year scholarship to the I.H. Asper School of Business. The success of this program resulted in the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship developing a pay version of this program for 12-13 year olds that is offered as part of the University of Manitoba’s Mini University program. In addition working with The Asper Foundation, the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship has expanded the program to Israel. Two versions of the program are offered in Israel and are delivered by the Asper Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The first of these programs targets high school age youth that are new to Israel. These youth come from such locations as Ethiopia, Somalia and the former Eastern Bloc. The program’s goals are to help acclimatize the participants to life in Israel and improve their math and language sills by teaching them the principles of entrepreneurship. The second program is for Palestinian women between the ages of 15-20. Its goal is to teach them the basics of entrepreneurship as a means of developing the local economy.
Restorative Resolutions Entrepreneurship Program
Based on the curriculum developed for the Curry BizCamp, this 13 week program is offered to participants in the Restorative Resolutions program of the John Howard Society. The goal of this program is to teach the offenders involved how to change their life using entrepreneurship. At the conclusion of the program the participants make a presentation of their proposed business idea to a panel of local entrepreneurs and business leaders. The top three business plans are offered an investment in their business. These investments range from $2,000 to $5,000.
Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO)
Sponsored by the Stu Clark Centre, this student-run group is dedicated to improving the entrepreneurial awareness and skills of students at the University of Manitoba. The club draws its members from across the campus. The club hosts a variety of activities for its members and others interested in entrepreneurship. These include a lecture series featuring local entrepreneurs, seminars involving public and private sector groups that support entrepreneurs and field trips to understand how local businesses operate.
Arni C. Thorsteinson Canada-Israel Exchange
This program is made possible through the generous support of Mr. Gerry Schwartz, CEO of Onex and is named in honour of his good friend and mentor, real estate and property management entrepreneur Arni Thorsteinson. This month long program offers the Asper School students that participate in it the opportunity to learn about international business through a combination of classroom activities and interactions with Israeli business leaders. The program also allows the students to tour Israel – visiting such sites as Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee – and learn about the culture by sharing a dorm room with Israeli students. The program offers the students the opportunity to put classroom theory into practice by preparing a report on how an Israeli company can improve its international efforts.
International Business Plan Competitions
The Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship provides financial and coaching support to the undergraduate and graduate teams that represent the University of Manitoba at business plan competitions around the world. Since launching this program, teams coached by the Stu Clark Centre have won 41 competitions on three continents and have earned over $1 million in cash and prizes. Examples of the competitions won include the McGinnis Venture Challenge at Carnegie Mellon University, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business Plan Competition and the Nascent 500 hosted by Ball State University. The strength of the Stu Clark Centre’s program can easily be seen by the fact that since 2003 it is the only Canadian school to win its way each year into the prestigious Global MOOT Corp. competition that is considered “The Super Bowl” of graduate competitions. More importantly these competitions have spawned the creation of 22 companies involved in such diverse industries as medical devices, information technology and food processing.
Stu Clark Venture Challenge
Hosted by the Stu Clark Centre in early April each year, this graduate level business plan competition attracts some of the leading business schools in the world to Winnipeg. Universities that have participated include:
- University of Texas – Austin
- University of Michigan
- University of Oregon
- University of California – Los Angeles
- University of Illinois – Chicago
- Thammasat University (Thailand)
- Ibmec (Brazil)
- Queen’s University (Canada)
- St. Mary’s University (Canada)
Teams compete in three areas for a prize pool in excess of $70,000. One of the unique features of the Stu Clark Venture Challenge is its emphasis on local companies and experiences. From hosting the competition at the historic Hotel Fort Garry to the recognition plaques that feature scenes of Winnipeg produced by local artist Roman Swiderek, the event has a uniquely Winnipeg feel. The first area of competition is the elevator pitch. Each team is given 60 seconds to pitch their business to a panel of local investors in the hopes of securing a follow-up meeting where they can present their idea in more detail. The winning team earns a dinner and wine tasting at Winnipeg’s premier restaurant, 529 Wellington. The competition’s second activity is a tradeshow. In this scenario the teams have to pitch their venture to local investors attending a tradeshow for new businesses. The winner of this competition earns a pair of custom made Silver Jeans for each member of the team courtesy of Western Glove.
The main event of the competition is the series of formal presentations each team must make to local angel investors, venture capitalists and representatives from the banking and law sectors. Each team is guaranteed at least two presentations to different panels of reviewers. Those that win their division or the wild card round earn a trip to the finals. The overall winner of the competition takes home a cash prize of $30,000 plus a customized hockey jersey (courtesy of the Manitoba Moose) and an automatic berth to the MOOT Corp. Global Competition in Austin, Texas. The second place team earns $10,000 while the third place team takes home a cheque for $5,000. The remaining finalist teams earn $2,000. For those teams that don’t make the finals, the Stu Clark Competition offers the Challenge Round. This round places an emphasis on providing feedback to the team so they can improve their plan. Challenge Round winners take home $1,500 in cash while the remaining teams earn a prize. The Stu Clark Competition is more than an academic exercise. Each year one or more teams that compete go on to launch the proposed company.
Since its launch in 2005 a dozen ventures that were showcased at the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship have become functioning companies in industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to publishing. In the process these ventures have raised closed to $10 million in equity financing.
Wes Nicol\YPO Competition
This business plan competition is open to students from across the University of Manitoba. It is made possible by the generous financial support of the local chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and Ottawa-based entrepreneur Wes Nicol. The competition is held in early January and features presentations by a maximum of three teams. The teams are selected based on the business plan they submit to the Stu Clark Centre. These plans are reviewed by members of the local YPO Chapter and the top three are invited to present their idea. The eventual winner of the competition is selected based on three factors: quality of the written plan; verbal presentation and how the team performs in the ensuing question and answer session. In addition to this evaluation, each team receives 20 minutes of feedback from the panel members. The winner of the competition earns the right to compete for a berth in the national Wes Nicol competition that is held in Ottawa in early May of each year.
The Stu Clark Centre is involved in a variety of outreach activities. These range from making presentations to local high school students on the concept of entrepreneurship and the process of becoming an entrepreneur to speaking to local service organizations about the activities of the centre. Robert Warren, the centre’s I.H. Asper Executive Director for Entrepreneurship is also a frequently sought after media commentator on topics related to entrepreneurship and marketing. Over the past five years he has appeared on the news broadcasts of CBC, CTV, NBC, CBS, Global and MSNBC. In addition he has been quoted in such publications as the National Post, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Marketing Magazine and Fortune.