A $1 million donation has been made by Ashif Mawji towards establishing the new Mawji Centre, which will be home to the New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship resources.
The centre will be dedicated to helping NAIT students in all fields of academia learn, explore and develop entrepreneurial skills. On Nov. 14, the centre hosted a grand opening in CAT crossing, where Mawji spoke on the importance of the centre in an institute like NAIT.
In addition, the first lunchtime panels were held from Nov. 14-16, which featured young entrepreneurs, sharing their experiences with students.
Mawji graduated from the Computer Systems Technology program at NAIT in 1992. After graduating, he developed his own company called Upside Software which he sold in 2012. He has since began another startup called Trust Science to help individuals gauge the trustworthiness of people and companies.
The Mawji Centre will hold regular mobile information sessions in various departments, ranging from lunchtime panels to weekend classes. The objective is to educate young adults of all interests on the practical skills to manage a business including how to register a business, write a business plan, learn where revenue is generated, connect with futurepreneurs, entrepreneurs and work collaboratively with other NAIT students as well as other post secondaries.
“We will be offering free programs and free panels and educational opportunities, mentoring for anybody, all the time, year round,” said Max Frank, the director of the centre.
Frank emphasizes the current push for entrepreneurship in Edmonton.
“Everybody is thinking about entrepreneurship, everybody wants to provide some service, so what we’ve decided is, let’s not replicate what everybody does. Let’s connect people,” she said. As a result, information sessions will feature young entrepreneurs, many of whom are NAIT grads. They have established their own startups and will share their successes and struggles to connect with current NAIT students. “We want them [industry professionals] to present their experiences, their knowledge, tell us their story, what makes them passionate about being an entrepreneur,” said Frank.
A mentorship program is also in the works to pair students with current industry professionals to provide one-on-one guidance on everything related to owning a business.
Given his entrepreneurial spirit, Mawji is a huge advocate for providing young adults with the knowledge and tools to succeed on their own. Frank explains why Mawji’s personal interest in entrepreneurship has been so important to its development. “He’s extremely passionate about youth … and young people learning how to do financial literacy … he grew a business and he wants to provide that opportunity and those learnings for everyone,” said Frank.
Randy Seccafien is a second-year student in the Mechanical Engineering program and was a member of the New Venture and Student Leader program during the 2016-17 school year. “While there’s lots of different startup efforts in Edmonton and while New Venture was one of those efforts, it’s not really an efficient use of resources because it doesn’t necessarily produce businesses any more than anything else would,” Seccafien said.
He is excited about the improvements made to the facilities this year and plans to utilize the resources for his own business plan. “I like the direction that they’re going this year. I think it’s very smart; I think it’s very pragmatic. I’m really excited to see what the future will be like because I really do feel that by reaching out to all the different students and different programs at NAIT, there’s a really great potential to produce results from this and actual businesses and really help students
not just start a business … it’s about giving them the skills and the tools to be able to be successful in the long term.”
The centre intends to establish a centralized database where students can find connections to partners, funding and resources. To date, this resource has not been established but Alyssa Nider, digital marketing and communications specialist at NAIT, explains a temporary resource for students to utilize.
“In the meantime, we’ve set up a Moodle site that students can self enroll and connect and use the forums, and stay abreast with all the different events that we’re doing and eventually it’ll roll out bigger,” Nider said.
“We are investing in people to give them skills, give them training and give them resources so they that can grow up their businesses,” said Frank.
“Getting them all in the same place, getting them all to start talking is what’s really key, that’s how the Mawji Centre’s going to be and that’s how we’ll meet Ashif’s goal.”
– Shawna Bannerman, Assistant Editor