By Shawn Smith
Hamilton’s legacy is based on the freethinking entrepreneurs who helped to develop the city over the past century. Skills for Change is doing their best to inspire that same mentality into a new generation of Hamiltonians. The Hamilton Youth Entrepreneurship Hub connects young people (aged 15-29) with experts to workshop ideas and develop skills.
After a 16-week course, the young entrepreneurs have an opportunity to pitch their projects for the chance to win up to $3,000 in startup funds.
“Entrepreneurship is important to this city’s identity. The new face of this city will be young entrepreneurs,” said Alma Arguello, supervisor for the entrepreneurship hub of Hamilton’s Skills for Change.
Hector Alfonso Diaz-Sanchez, 18, wanted to build a shirt designing company that offers “independent creative liberation” to those who wear it. A student at Mohawk, his parents moved to Canada from El Salvador. He discovered a poster for the program on a corkboard between classes, met with Arguello, and quickly signed up.
“This program gave me a lot more confidence to pursue my ideas,” Diaz-Sanchez said. “As long as you have the map for your idea, anything is possible. That’s what they emphasize here.”
Diaz-Sanchez is attending a special program through Mohawk College and the Industry Education Council of Hamilton (IEC) that allows him to take a general program that explores the trades for a minimal fee. The $3,000 grant would give him an opportunity to put time and effort into his shirt designing idea.
“I’ve already started selling shirts,” Diaz-Sanchez said. “This is before the pitch money so everything is out of pocket right now, I’m just trying to create some buzz. I really feel like this is a big opportunity, especially in this city.”
Jayevan Foster, 25, is one of Hamilton’s only talent agents, having already started his own company called Empire Management. After being rejected for a grant from the city of Hamilton because his business is considered to be commission based, Foster discovered the entrepreneurial program through Skills for Change.
“I came to the class for support,” Foster said. “It was a chance to network, we’re all like-minded individuals striving for success and trying to make it on our own.”
He currently manages four talents, including an actor, writer, R&B singer and a director. He was recently approved by the Canadian Football League to become an agent, meaning he can now pursue talent to play in that league.
“This is a pilot program and I think it’s doing really well,” Foster said. “No one wants to work for anyone these days, everyone wants to be their own boss. That’s what is so great about our generation.”
Shawn Smith is a writer and reporter from the Hamilton area. Follow him on Twitter @shawn_w_smith.