L’Esprit D’Entreprise à McGill
24 Feb, 2012
[media-credit name="Courtesy of Totum Pass and TutorPro " align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit] The entrepreneurial spirit is one that most fresh-faced undergraduates hold in high esteem, particularly in faculties of management. McGill is no different. A growing number of students have taken to starting businesses in order to fill a niche they see in their community in the hopes of gaining some practical experience and success in the thrilling world of student entrepreneurial ventures. Here are two examples of the kind of remarkable work currently being done by McGill students:
Student expenses in Montreal can be daunting. This past summer, Totum Pass founder Sean Kim (U1 Economics) sought to create a student discount card that could help alleviate some of the financial headache students experience daily. Totum Pass officially launched this past Thursday at Factory Bar on St. Laurent and has distributed over 300 discount cards. The company boasts a diverse and well known client base including Quiznos, Body Quest, Nettoyeurs Express and Factory Bar.
Totum Pass generates revenue through client contracts with the various partners in food, retail, travel and nightlife industries. Businesses receive advertising and greater access to the student market by becoming a partner. Using a “freemium” business model, Totum Pass offers bronze, silver and gold packages to businesses determining the level of marketing Totum Pass will provide. Further revenue is generated by sales of discount cards.
Totum Pass’ marketing is primarily based in social media. Using Facebook ads, Twitter and other outlets, Totum Pass uses its customers as part of its marketing force. These techniques have become increasingly common for businesses in their infancy as well as established corporations.
When asked what the biggest challenge has been so far, Kim responds that “juggling between school and business, while maintaining a social life at the same time” has been a struggle. Totum Pass is seeking to become the premier Montreal student discount card by keeping its ear to the ground and delivering deals that students can truly benefit from.
Along with the financial trials and tribulations of student life, students face an arguably more pertinent problem: school work. TutorPro offers a range of services aimed at helping students cope with the often burdensome demands of academia, from crash courses to private tutorials and standardized test preparation. Founder Emilia Kowalski started the company after recognizing serious demand as she was involved in private, informal tutoring in mathematics and science. The company has since grown to employ 30 tutors and spans over two Canadian cities – Montreal and Halifax.
TutorPro is divided into two branches: secondary and post-secondary. The former branch generates profit through contractual agreements with various secondary schools in the Montreal area to which TutorPro offers tutorial services. At the post-secondary level, revenue is procured directly from students, who pay for private, group and crash course tutorials.
In terms of marketing, TutorPro utilizes both intermediate and long-term strategies. In the intermediate, TutorPro works directly with the McGill student body, sponsoring student societies and distributing literature around campus. For a more long-term strategy, they are working with web-based techniques such as Google AdWords campaigns, SEO (search engine optimization) and list serves in an effort to take advantage of the increasingly effective methods of online marketing.
No business venture is without its challenges and TutorPro is no exception. Founder and CEO, Emilia Kowalski outlined some of the biggest challenges her and her team have and continue to face: “meeting time constraints and developing the most appropriate business model. Our company is very diverse and because we don’t only work with only one target audience, but with several, it makes it challenging to grow and develop all branches of the business fluidly”. However, despite these difficulties, Emilia is optimistic about the future and points out that “the hardest challenges are always said to arise at the beginning.”
Start-ups are risky, as anyone involved in one can attest to; competing for market share and recognition takes a tremendous amount of determination and creativity. Luckily for these companies, in the rat-race of business they have given themselves a real fighting chance.