SUDBURY -- With many summer jobs cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seven entrepreneurs in the city are taking measures into their own hands.

"Since I was smaller I thought of selling squash stuff, it's been a dream of mine," said 15-year-old Robert De La Riva. He started his own business called "Riddler Racquet and Sport" selling tennis, badminton and squash equipment and accessories.

De La Riva's business plans received a boost from the 2020 Summer Company program, a provincial initiative that encourages both secondary and post-secondary students to start their own business.

The program gives entrepreneurs $1,500 to start their business and then another $1,500 after they've successfully completed the program. However, it's about more than just the start-up money.

"We provide training for the participants," said Brad Senecal, youth programs officer at the Regional Business Centre. "Different forms of trainings including bookkeeping, maintaining your records, marketing, all different areas like that. So we'll provide the training and then the mentoring, as well, in order for them to run their business successfully." 

Hands-on experience

While the financial help is important, Senecal said the experience of actually learning how to run a businesses is key.

"The grant is always a big thing -- obviously getting $1,500 to start your business is huge," he said. "But the training that comes along with it that's where I always get the best feedback. It's the most regarding part of the program."

De La Riva agrees. Although the money helped him get started, the training was essential for his success.

"It helped me with a lot of things, but most importantly they give meetings every week or websites or taxes or websites, stuff like that, which helps me out a lot. (It) helped me understand how to run a business."

Senecal said that throughout the years, several participants have continued their businesses even after the summer ends.

"Entrepreneurship and small businesses is always going to be a huge part of any community really," Senecal said. "So really getting the opportunity to allow these very young, inspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to start their own business, but also just helping them along the way."

Seven new businesses

Participants are expected to work 35 hours a week, but what they decide to do for their business is up to them. This year, the seven new business are:

- Unconditional Design by Adam Pinard. An agency that focuses on photography, videography and editing.

- B-Hyped Kicks and Clothing by Brady Howard, which focuses on reselling new and used coveted sneakers and clothing.

- Dante's Fine Woodworking by Dante Strangis, which produces custom wood products.

- Lune Marketing, a website creation and social media business, by Leo Fortin.

- Active Soul by Mackenzie Coggins who sells resistance bands for medical and fitness purposes.

- Riddler Racquet and Sport by Robert De La Riva who sells badminton, squash and tennis equipment.

- Natural Balms and Butters, a company selling natural beauty products, by Sofia Bagha.

For De La Riva, who is too young to even get a job, he said the program gave him a chance.

"It could have (been possible), but it would have been a lot harder without the grants of money and the things they teach you," said De La Riva. "It's kind of harder to start a business without that."