Co-op Spotlight: 2 UW Students Create Their Own Company Instead Of Working For Someone Else’s

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Most students tend to associate co-op with working for large corporations.

But two University of Waterloo students, Prem Kalevar and Jean-Samuel Rancourt, decided to take a completely different route and create an entirely new product and company: ResumeCards.

I sat down with Kalevar, a fourth-year mechatronics engineering student, to discuss his unique co-op experience.

“We were a bit confused about which association or company logo to put on our [business] cards, and jokingly discussed the idea of having one card with every logo and with writing describing all that we do.”
Prem Kalevar, Co-founder, ResumeCards

Q. What were you looking for when applying to jobs for your work term?
A. I already worked for four different large companies in different engineering roles, so I was looking for something different. Business has always been a huge interest of mine, so rather than looking for the typical engineering job, I was looking for a more business-related position.  Having some difficulty finding what I was look for, and with all the positive feedback Jean-Samuel and I had received on ResumeCards, I decided to pursue it full time as part of the University of Waterloo’s e-co-op program.

Q. Why did you end up choosing to run a business for your work term?
A. When getting ready to attend one of the numerous business conferences that Jean-Samuel and I attend, we were talking about making ourselves new business cards. We were a bit confused about which association or company logo to put on our cards, and jokingly discussed the idea of having one card with every logo and with writing describing all that we do. The conversation died quickly after that, but our entrepreneurial minds starting silently processing the thought that we may have just created with a business idea.

After getting feedback on the idea from a number of respected individuals, we decided to actively pursue this project. I later decided to pursue ResumeCards as an enterprise co-op term provided by the Centre of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (CBET).

Q. What were some of your main responsibilities?
A. As Project Manager, my main responsibilities included handling the day to day operations of the company, co-coordinating the efforts of the ResumeCards team which included two full-time (one co-op student and myself) and six part-time team members and ensuring that all major projects were moving along steadily. Additionally, I sought out opportunities for the company to capitalize on through meetings with campus leaders and by keeping a keen eye monitoring the student community. I am also responsible for the company’s finances, marketing and manufacturing.

Jean-Samuel’s main responsibilities involved using his strong network to really push the partnership with the University of Waterloo as fast as he could. Additionally, working out of Toronto, he was able to meet a lot of people that have created some great opportunities for ResumeCards. This includes meeting with executives of student conferences, Impact National Conference and the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference, where ResumeCards will likely be provided to every delegate to be handed out during the conference. Jean-Samuel is also responsible for most legal issues and new business development.

Q. What was your biggest challenge?
A. I think our biggest challenge has been developing the partnership with the University of Waterloo so that we can provide ResumeCards to students with the University of Waterloo logo on it. In order to do this, we have had to meet with numerous top administrators and faculty throughout the different departments of the university to gain approvals.

We have had to tailor several different pitches for each different department head so that it addresses their specific concerns from their department’s perspective. We have been working on this partnership for six months now, and it is only now that we are in the very final stages of getting this document outlining the partnership signed.

Editor’s note: ResumeCards’ partnership with the University of Waterloo is now in place and the company plans to develop partnerships with other universities as well.

Q. What was a typical day like?
A. The work environment for myself and Stanley (our co-op student) is very relaxed  and independent. Since we work out of a house that Jean-Samuel, my good friend Tom, and I purchased back at the end of first year, for me it is working from home, and Stanley works in the room next to me.

A typical day starts around 9 a.m. when I will check in with Stanley to see his progress and make sure he is going in the right direction with his work. Throughout the day, I will also have questions for him on whether certain functions or features are achievable for our website as his main responsibility is the development of the website and card design application. Then, I will likely catch up on e-mails and then start working on different tasks I have lined up on my to-do list. I commonly step out of the office for a meeting on campus or around the Waterloo area, and will often make day or weekend trips to Toronto for other meetings.

Jean-Samuel will often also be in contact with me throughout the day from Toronto updating me on new developments as well as to ask questions on certain progressions.

Q. What was the coolest thing you did for this work term?
A. To pick out one single thing that Jean-Samuel and I think that is the coolest would be difficult. I definitely think the most rewarding thing for both of us is seeing it all come together. With the website up, we are very excited for our launch this September at the university of Waterloo. We can’t wait to see students benefiting from everything that ResumeCards has to offer.

Q. Did you develop or strengthen any new skills while on work term?
Prem. I developed and strengthened many skills while on this work term. I definitely improved my presentation skills and my ability to meet new people and pitch ResumeCards and other ideas right on the fly with little preparation. My understanding of how to be an effective leader has grown immensely and my self-determination and motivation has also improved. I have also learned how to better manage my time through juggling all the different tasks, meetings, and responsibilities I have had over the term.

Jean-Samuel. A key skill of any businessman and entrepreneur is simply the ability to sell. Through my position with ResumeCards this summer, I had the chance to further improve this skill that I am continuously trying to master. Being a salesman sounds cliché, but the ability to sell your product, your business model, and yourself as a trustworthy person is extremely important. Through a couple work terms at a large sales corporation (HTS Engineering Ltd.) and through my experience with ResumeCards, I definitely learned that business happens through relationships. This includes relationships with your clients but also with your suppliers, with your partners, with your key stakeholders and endorsers, and with your team.

Q. How did this work term help you in choosing a career path?
A.
This work term has made a huge impact on what I plan to do with my life when I graduate. I definitely want to continue running my own business, and if not, I want to be part of a company that allows for a flexible schedule and provides great learning opportunities. I definitely wouldn’t mind using my engineering degree in a technical industry, but I want the focus of my roles in the future on higher-level strategic management, business development and operations of a company.

Q. Do you think your experiences have helped prepare you for seeking work in the real world?
A.
My experiences have definitely helped me for my work in the future. I feel like if you really think about it, and talk to the right people, there is a way to achieve anything. If you are willing to work for it, you can make anything happen. This knowledge definitely gives me a huge relief in that I know I don’t have to worry so much about what I’m going to do to when I graduate because I know when I want something, I will be able to find a way to get it.

Q. What are your plans for the future?
A.
I definitely see myself working on continuing work with ResumeCards and possibly other start-ups. I also plan to work on other personal projects on continuing to develop myself and learn as much as I can so that I can be the best that I can be. Eventually, I would like to share what I have learned with the youth of Canada as either some sort of professor or public figure.

For more information about ResumeCards, please visit ResumeCards.ca.

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