Behind The Scenes With The Next 36′s Student Entrepreneurs: Week 2

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Have you ever considered starting your own company while still in school? Have you wondered what it would be like to take an idea from inception to a real life product?

Join us every week for an inside look into the experiences of four students at The Next 36, the founders of DineWithMe, giving you a glimpse of what it’s like to be a student entrepreneur.

The goal of The Next 36 is to help launch the careers of 36 of Canada’s most promising and innovative undergraduates.

“[Frank McKenna] left us with three lessons for success: (1) Never give up, (2) Don’t fear failure, and (3) Remember the power of praise. You never know how much of a motivator that can be for your team.” —Daniel Rodic, fourth year finance and economics student, University of Toronto

The program identifies these students through a rigorous national selection process, and gives them the academic foundation, practical skills, role models and networks to become Canada’s next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.

Students should expect to be pushed out of their comfort zone, gain skills vital from entrepreneurs and nation builders and have their expectations for themselves increased dramatically.

This week at the Next 36, we had the privilege of speaking to a wide spectrum of Canadian entrepreneurs. The week kicked off with Frank McKenna, current Deputy Chair of TD Bank and former Premier of New Brunswick, and continued on with talks by Pierre Morrissette (Owner of the Weather Network) and a bevy of successful up-and-coming entrepreneurs at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Ontario nominees’ event.

Despite a lighter week of classes, it was another series of late nights to push out the next shipment of our product (note the filming time of our vlog). I have personally found a new appreciation for sleeping masks, as the sunrise often makes it difficult to fall asleep.

My favourite part of the week is always the time I get to spend with the other teams at The Next 36. Despite the competition inherent in entrepreneurship, there is huge value in collaboration with others. We had a chance to relax over some pasta and juice (classy food for a student residence) with another team in the program, and it was really great to unwind for a few hours after a long week.

The following are a few questions that our closest followers have been asking since last week. If you have a question that you would like answered, please leave it in the comment box below and we will be happy to help!

How has The Next 36 raised your personal expectations for the future?

Amy BerardAmy Berard (Kamloops, BC)

Fourth year marketing and public relations student – Thompson Rivers University

The level of intensity and inspiration created in The Next 36 has dramatically impacted my plans for the future in the two months I have been here. All our classes are centred on economics, accounting, and finance – three subjects I have never excelled in. Yet I have realized the importance of knowing and understanding the numbers when starting a business.

I have now switched my major from marketing to finance as I move closer to my goal of creating my own venture. I also never wanted to pursue an MBA until this summer and after hearing our constant stream of guest speakers discussing their Harvard MBA and the impact it made on them, I am now reconsidering my academic plans for the future.

Who has been your favourite guest speaker this week?

Daniel RodicDaniel Rodic (Toronto, ON)

Fourth year finance and economics student – Rotman Commerce, University of Toronto

On Monday, we had the fortune of hearing Frank McKenna speak to us at a Next 36 event. Frank currently serves as the Deputy Chair of TD Bank, but is truly an entrepreneur at heart, owning and building a cabinet manufacturing business that provides 130 jobs for Canadians in Shediac, N.B.

His legacy is inspirational on its own, with a storied career as a defence lawyer in Chatham, Premier of New Brunswick, and Canadian Ambassador to the United States, but his passion for entrepreneurship drew me in. He views entrepreneurs as the greatest assets to a country’s prosperity, as their innovations create more jobs and more opportunities for future generations.

Most importantly, he left us with three lessons for success: (1) Never give up, (2) Don’t fear failure, and (3) Remember the power of praise. The next time you work with someone, make sure you say “Thank You” – even if it was something small. You never know how much of a motivator that can be for your team.

How have you navigated a business-focused program without a business background?

Salima HirjiSalima Hirji (Calgary, AB)

Third year sociology student – University of British Columbia

One of my main reasons for joining The Next 36 was because I do not have a business background. I hoped the classes would give me the general understanding I need to pursue entrepreneurship in the future. Since this is something I am passionate to learn, I am willing to put in the extra time to study the material. I have always naturally enjoyed math as well which has allowed me to pick up some elements of the financial classes easier than I had initially expected to.

Within our venture, I feel my sociology background has been extremely useful in building our product and identifying with our potential users. A key concept for me to refer to has been the sociological imagination – when you are able to both immerse yourself within a given situation and remove yourself completely to view it from an external perspective.

What is it like to build and manage a team? What tips can you provide to other entrepreneurs?

Pilwon HuhPilwon Huh (Toronto, ON)

Fourth year computer science student – University of Waterloo

Our venture is focused on the mobile application space so we needed to build a strong development team in addition to my work as the tech co-founder. This was crucial to be able to launch fast and iterate on our product quickly. After countless hours of interviewing candidates online, we hired two offshore outsourcing teams that met our criteria, and we are interviewing again for upcoming projects.

Interviewing offshore candidates was difficult because I had to stay up late to interview developers from different time zones. Planning and managing the workflow of external contractors is also a challenge because there are dependencies between tasks given out to different providers.

Three tips I would give to other entrepreneurs who face similar challenges are to (1) Have a deep understanding of personality and motivation behind each contractor to know your negotiation power, (2) Build an efficient feedback system to accurately measure progress and give an early feedback to avoid any deviations, and (3) Respect and treat your contractors as partners and develop a shared long-term vision of your project to align their interests with yours.

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About the author

Daniel Rodic is a third year finance student in the Rotman Commerce program at the University of Toronto, a member of The Next 36, and co-founder of DineWithMe, a mobile venture founded out of The Next 36 that makes it easier for you to eat out with your friends. Daniel has experience in project management and team leadership in the non-profit, public and private sectors. While his expertise is steeped in strategy consulting through his role as President of the Rotman Commerce Consulting Association, Daniel has gotten exposure to the technology side of business as an Analyst in Deloitte’s Enterprise Risk Services practice. He has since been recognized as a promising entrepreneurial mind, advancing past 700 students in Canada to earn the title of “Impact Apprentice”.