Welcome to part two of Ryerson Startups: Growing North. Growing North is a non-profit organization founded by Stefany Nieto (Business Management graduate – Class of 2016) and Ben Canning (current Business Management student – Entrepreneurship major) which aims to bring fresh food to communities across the country. Over the span of a few short years, the Growing North team has found incredible success. Catch up on part one of our interview here to find out how the organization got its start, before reading on to learn about Ben’s experience as an Entrepreneurship major at the Ted Rogers School of Management, and his advice for incoming students!
Did you always know you wanted to major in Entrepreneurship?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until I applied to university. I wasn’t the best student in high school, and wasn’t motivated to do a lot. But there was a teacher who gave me a shook and said “You’re either going to university this year, or you’re going to fail and hang around for the rest of your life. So, what do you want to do?” and that stuck with me. I had seen my uncle go into business and be successful, my dad had tried his own business, so I thought I’d try my hand at entrepreneurship. The more I progressed in the program, the more I realized I have been an entrepreneur my entire life. I started my first business when I was nine, I had a lemonade stand. Then I created a t-shirt company with my friends, did artwork design, and sold my toys for money. I was a very entrepreneurial person but didn’t realize it until I came to Ryerson.
Entrepreneurial parents nurture the entrepreneurial abilities in their children, and teach them to be creative, critical, and to ask questions. If no one in your family is an entrepreneur, that does not mean you can’t be. Some of the entrepreneurs I look up to aren’t from a family of entrepreneurs. It’s about the study of being analytical, responsive, determined, disciplined, and persevering.
As an Entrepreneurship major, you take courses that help you understand how to start your own business or organization. What’s something from these courses that has helped you with Growing North?
One of the most important philosophies was instilled in me during my first year by a good friend and mentor, Dr. Steven Gedeon, a Ryerson professor. It was “university is not preparation for real life, it is real life, so get to work.” Stop learning for the future, learn by going, doing, and failing, and then by doing and succeeding. That was one of the very first philosophies I learned and applied to my life. I told myself that in four years I want to have my own job, pay myself, and be my own boss (though as an entrepreneur your boss is actually your customers) to move forward. The classes are great, they really teach you what it means to be an entrepreneur from square one, and how to be a disciplined entrepreneur.
What advice do you have for incoming first year students?
Take some time to think about yourself. In your first year join as many different student groups, clubs, or ventures as possible. Take that time to figure out what you love to do. That’s the beautiful thing about university: you’re finding yourself. Then move forward and apply what you’ve learned to the next year. Do whatever you have to do to follow that happiness. It’s going to be tough, but do what you love and have fun.
I’m from a small town, and I think it’s important that readers from small towns know that there is a place for them at Ryerson and this city. As an outsider we don’t see it as the easiest place to get to, so I really want to make sure any small-town kids know that there’s a place for them. There are ample funding opportunities to get them here, like scholarships and bursaries. Come apply, it’s amazing.
Curious about what Growing North is up to right now? They’re competing in Google.org’s Impact Challenge, a competition that supports Canadian non-profits who are tackling the world’s biggest challenges. Growing North is one of the ten organizations competing for the prize of a $750,000 grant to help turn their ideas into action. From today until March 28th, join the Ryerson community and vote Growing North into the top five! Click here to vote.
Good luck Growing North, we’re rooting for you!
Featured Image: Ben Canning