Students’ innovative eCo-op project rewarded with special Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre funding
December 12, 2018

Budding entrepreneurs Connor Minielly and Eric Ladouceur are receiving a financial boost toward their innovative eCo-op project to start the new year.

The second-year Computer Programmer Analyst students, and co-founders of Bookshop Interactive, are the proud recipients of the inaugural Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) Fellowship Fund.

This fellowship, made possible by Georgian’s Social Innovation Fund, connects students who are taking the eCo-op program with funds to support them as they transform their idea into a business. Students accepted into an eCo-op receive support, resources and mentorship from HBEC. Two fellowships will be awarded each semester. The intention of the fund is to encourage students to take time to go through business planning, development and potentially launch their initiative while they’re still in school.

“Typically access to capital is a problem for students as they launch their ideas,” says Sara Bentham, Manager, Programs and Partnerships, HBEC. “It’s our hope this funding will encourage those who have an entrepreneurial mindset to take the leap into starting their own business.”

We asked Connor and Eric to tell us about Bookstore Interactive.

What is Bookshop Interactive?

Bookshop Interactive is a web and software development studio. We plan to establish ourselves as storytellers for the internet. Far too often, we see website after website made in a generic website builder that makes everything blur together into a sea of look-a-likes and feel-a-likes. We talk to our clients to get a sense of who they are, what drives them, and what their personality is. We take that and help them tell their story online – whether it be a new website from scratch, a site face lift, new software so the company has the right tools to help achieve a better ending, or a mobile app to share their story with people on the go. We specialize in working with modern technologies like React, Gatsby, Node.js, and GraphQL to create the most flexible and attractive applications we can deliver.

What was the idea behind it?

Our company was founded a little backwards from the beginning. We were very fortunate to have a client fall into our lap before anything else, which in turn sparked the flame of our entrepreneurial spirit. After we started doing a little contracting work for one client, we quickly realized how much we liked this kind of work, and the many ways in which we could bring something fun and unique to the table. As passionate storytellers, we became deeply interested in how we could facilitate organizations in telling their tales with super-cool technologies.

Two bearded young men with glasses sitting in orange chairs smiling at the camera

What are you doing during your eCo-op?

On the client-facing side, we’ve been finding, networking and working with a variety of people. We’ve attended multiple industry events to expand our network, including events like the recent Xcelerate Summit in Barrie, Polyhack meetups, and AWS (Amazon Web Services) Toronto. We’ve been meeting clients from all over, both local and international. As a result, we’ve sent out proposals to organizations and are currently engaged in the bidding process.

Internally, we’ve been doing a lot of learning and research in order to set up the company, getting everything from our books to our taxes in order. That includes learning what we have to do to keep the government happy, and growing our business management skills. There’s still much to learn about things our clients may need and how we can reach out to people who we can help best.

And speaking of learning, we’ve also been rigorously practising our coding skills and expanding our ability to build the best possible apps. It’s been a ton of learning and not all of it fun or easy, but we feel all of it has been rewarding and something to be proud of. We currently have an actively used live commercial site as well as our own site. We manage the hosting and analytics for both these sites. We’ve also done maintenance and improvement work for various projects and server development consulting for a local company.

What are your future hopes for Bookstore Interactive?

We want to grow locally and help be a guiding voice for future Barrie tech growth. We want to act as proponents for alternative and cutting-edge software/web development in the area. Ideally, we’d like to be part of the development of a meaningful tech community here in Barrie, one that meets and interacts and grows with the vibrancy of similar communities in Toronto and Waterloo.

Students accepted into the eCo-op program can apply for the fellowship each semester. Two successful candidates are selected by a committee that includes business owners, mentors and support personnel. An eCo-op is an entrepreneurial co-op where a student can start and grow a business during the course of one semester.

To apply for the eCo-op program students should connect with Ashley Carnrite, Co-operative Consultant, Student Development, Co-operative Education and Career Success. Once learning outcomes have been determined, students work alongside HBEC to receive the business supports they need.