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Why Students Choose to Come to Dalhousie University to Become Entrepreneurs and Graduates Stay in Halifax to Launch Their Businesses


Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship is home for two real movers and shakers: Dr. Ed Leach, the Director, and Dr. Mary Kilfoil, the Academic Lead. Ed and Mary have created a collaborative space for students from all faculties to grow as entrepreneurs and innovators. With their Launch Dal programming, Ed and Mary have given students the tools they need to successfully launch businesses.

Dr. Mary Kilfoil at the 2014 Startup Canada Awards Ceremony

Dr. Mary Kilfoil at the 2014 Startup Canada Awards Ceremony

Ed and Mary have hosted and organized a multitude of events for student entrepreneurs: Democamp, Pitch 101, Startup Weekends, and of course, Canada’s Business Model Competition. In addition, their industry leading course, Starting Lean, has received national recognition with Dr. Mary Kilfoil receiving Start Up Canada’s Entrepreneurial Educator of the Year Award in 2014!

However, Ed and Mary will be the first to tell you, it’s not about them, it’s about the students and what they are able to achieve.
I sat down with two of their past students to learn about their experience with entrepreneurship at Dal and the business model canvas. Both of them have graduated and are making their way as entrepreneurs in Halifax! Click below to read about their stories:

Megan McCarthy: An Entrepreneur who Came from Away and Chose to Stay in Halifax

Callum Mayer: An Entrepreneur who Grew up in the Maritimes and Chooses to Stay in Halifax

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Local Entrepreneurs from Dal: Callum Mayer

Startup Weekend Entrepreneur Halifax Dalhousie

Callum Presenting at a Startup Weekend Event

Callum Mayer grew up in the Maritimes and studied at Dalhousie University where he completed his Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Finance. Callum wanted to become an entrepreneur from an early age, especially when he saw the success of local entrepreneurial ventures, such as Pete’s Fr00tique. For his third co-op, Callum undertook an Entrepreneurial Work Term (EWT) with one of his friends.

They started a company, called “Student Shine”. The business offered student driven services for property maintenance, such as pressure washing and window and gutter cleaning. After one successful year of operation, Callum wanted to focus on new business ventures and their team partnered with transferred their operations to Freshman Services.

From the outside, Callum is clearly an entrepreneur at heart. Callum met Mary in the Innovation class at Dalhousie University. Similar to Megan, he was invited to participate in a Startup Weekend Event and loved it. He has since participated in the Summer UP accelerator program at Dal, as well as, Propel ICT’s Launch 36 Accelerator.

Callum explains the significant role events that the Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship runs, such as Pitch Competitions, the summer accelerator, and Canada’s Business Model Competition play for student entrepreneurs. The events help students expand their network, access mentoring, find a space to work and focus, as well as, give them access to much needed funding to advance their businesses.

As our conversation wraps up, I wonder why Callum has not decided to leave and he describes the same culture that I had heard earlier from Megan. The Halifax startup community has a unique and genuine, “pay it forward” mentality. Callum describes it as being able to reach out to nearly anyone and having them be willing to help out because everyone wants to see everyone succeed here!

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Local Entrepreneurs from Dal: Megan McCarthy

Megan McCarthy is originally from Calgary, Alberta. She did three years of an engineering degree and a stint in the oil and gas industry before relocating to Halifax, NS. Megan completed a Bachelor of Management, Environment, Sustainability, and Society at Dalhousie University where she met Ed while taking one of his classes. Ed encouraged her to participate in a Startup Weekend event and she loved it!

Since then, she has participated and mentored in a total of six startup weekend events. Megan has started multiple businesses and in 2013 she won the Rowe School of Business’ Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Megan is also President of Dalhousie University’s Cryptocurrency Club.

After graduating, Megan has found that the Halifax startup community is the best place for her to live, work, and grow. She mentions the tight knit community’s willingness to collaborate and live up to their “pay it forward” attitude as one of the key benefits to working in this startup community. Megan explains that Halifax is the right size because there is an abundance of resources, but you can also find your niche, become an expert, and make a name for yourself.

Megan attributes much of her business success to the business model canvas, which she still uses with clients in her consulting work. She says it “just makes sense” to use the business model canvas rather than building a big static business plan because the lean process of customer discovery and validation is much better.

Megan McCarthy has thought about moving back west, but she has decided that what she has built in Halifax with this community and it’s opportunities and lifestyle is too great to leave.

And we are excited to welcome Canada’s Business Model Competition teams here in March so they can see what it’s all about!

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