By George Hong
NAIT’s Mawji Centre welcomes two Resident Entrepreneurs (RE) to help students create and launch their start-up companies.
Although the RE concept has seen success in other institutions in Canada, it is the first program of its kind in Edmonton. It was introduced to NAIT by Max Frank, Director of the Mawji Centre, and Coordinator Cecile Wendlandt.
Frank has seen a variety of different mentorship programs to assist startups, but chose this RE model to help students that have a strong business plan but need a critical eye. Frank believes advising potential entrepreneurs, rather than existing business owners could increase the rate of success and put NAIT at the forefront of the industry.
Resident Entrepreneurs, Howard Suissa and Brad Smoliak, can provide valuable first-hand advice on the challenges new business owners face. They are available by appointment in the Mawji Centre’s third floor offices in the CAT building. Availability is limited because Suissa and Smoliak are working entrepreneurs managing their own companies.
Howard Suissa of Suissa Design, is an Industrial Designer who provides one-on-one design solutions that address usability, experience, and branding of a product. Suissa can provide guidance through any step of an entrepreneur’s journey from inception, to business planning, all the way to expansion.
One of Suissa’s fundamental business rules include: “put the right team in place to succeed.”
Understanding all facets of a company is important, but relying on experts to handle accounting, financing, investing, and legal issues allows the entrepreneur to focus on their product or service and “make it the best possible experience for the consumer,” said Suissa.
Suissa wants students to understand the difference between entrepreneur and inventor. Inventors can create a great product or provide exceptional service but may not be the right person to lead a company, he said.
“Entrepreneurship is grounded in solid business knowledge,” said Suissa.
Suissa remembers learning this lesson himself and admits it wasn’t easy. Through experience he realized the main requirement of entrepreneurs is “to have the ability, knowledge, and skills to move a startup to a profitable position.”
Brad Smoliak is a chef, teacher, researcher, and entrepreneur. He will be available to students in one-on-one sessions starting Oct. 30 and going until Feb. 2019. Students can search Mawji Centre on the NAIT website and book an appointment through Eventbrite for Smoliak’s unique perspective on business through the culinary industry.
Having successful entrepreneurs educate the business owners of tomorrow is an invaluable asset to NAIT and the Mawji Centre. Students that have the courage and spirit to start their own company can now use the Entrepreneur in Residence program to take every advantage possible.
The Mawji Centre has upcoming events including: Leading Like a Boss with Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder of Bioware on Oct. 22 and Becoming a Kicka** Leader Bootcamp with Karmen Masson on Oct. 27.