The former head office of Shopify Ottawa is located at the corner of Elgin and Gloucester streets. Photo credit: Tamara Condie
In April 2020, Naina Kansal, a former mentor at Algonquin College’s Office of Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was consulted by a bakery and pastry student who wanted to professionally sell her Ukrainian cakes.
Kansal knew exactly what would take this aspiring entrepreneur’s business to the next level: attending a “Build Your Shopify Store” workshop launched by ARIE the same month.
“I mentored the student until around December 2020 and she now has a business partner,” Kansal said. “Her online presence is great and seeing her business grow was so cool, all because she attended our Shopify workshop.”
The workshop is organized twice per semester by the ARIE office and is aimed at innovative students who wish to explore e-commerce. At the last workshop held on September 28, the office announced that it will be piloting a week-long Shopify boot camp open to all students on October 26.
The rollout of this boot camp responds to a growing demand for digital sales of products and services that started slightly before the pandemic, according to Kansal, who is now an employee of Startup Canada. Kansal says the pandemic has spurred an entrepreneurial boom within the college community.
“When we first kicked off the sessions, we saw around 30 employees between our Shopify and Business Model Canvas workshops,” Kansal said.
In just a few months, the Kansal saw 120 participants between the two events.
“People from different departments reached out to us to offer Shopify workshops tailored to their programs,” Kansal said.
According to Stephen Gagné, a business professor and ARIE office worker at the college, these workshops fostered a strong relationship between students interested in website design and small business owners in the city.
“ARIE’s core business is connecting students who are doing great things with business owners looking to do these great things,” said Gagné. “The office encourages the bringing together of different skills, such as coding and photography, to diversify students’ skills and strengthen innovation.
James Rankin, a former college marketing student and founder of North Brew Coffee, is a prime example of the endless possibilities that emerge from a multidisciplinary skill set.
Having owned and sold a lawn care business before going to college, Rankin had a taste for entrepreneurship and planted the embryo that became North Brew Coffee, a local fair trade brewing business, during Ontario’s 12-week college strike in 2017.
According to Rankin, developing an e-commerce site was the factor that took his business concept to the next level, despite being told by his credit counselor that the idea seemed unrealistic to a 19-year-old. .
“I remember having this teacher named Norman LeCouvie during my second semester for a professional sales course,” Rankin said. “He was showing us his Shopify site where he sold premium dog cages. I watched his sales unfold in real time and was amazed at the number of people buying them. “
Rankin finally built his own Shopify site in July 2018 for North Brew Coffee and attributes much of the company’s success to an e-commerce system that allows it to generate revenue around the clock.
“I thought it was so cool that LeCouvie could teach a class and make money from his business at the same time,” Rankin said. “I wanted something where I could do anything in the world while selling my product, and Shopify was that thing.”
The notion of innovation is going to be particularly important for students entering a rapidly changing workforce, according to Gagné. It encourages students from all disciplinary backgrounds to learn more about e-commerce to diversify their skills.
“Getting in the mindset of looking for the sequel, or better yet, to create the sequel, is going to be absolutely essential for people who want to find or create work for themselves. “
The ARIE office will be posting details about the Shopify boot camp in the coming weeks on its events page.