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Maximizing Online Entrepreneurship Education Opportunities

Posted on July 27 2016 | Author: Carolyn Dowling

There are numerous online educational opportunities that can be accessed to enhance your personal or professional aptitude beyond the textbooks and lectures of conventional school learning. The demand for online courses is rapidly increasing due to the shear increase in accessibility to and reliance on high-speed Internet, the explosion of “convenience culture” fostered by Generations X and Y, and the rise of “Do-It-Yourself” and entrepreneurship. Since entrepreneurship is the name of the game for Bioenterprise, maximizing free online education is critical for our entrepreneurs from where to begin with a concept for a new technology, product or service all the way down the commercialization pathway for how to secure retail shelf space and investment.

Although a number of Canadian colleges and universities have started to offer in-class and online entrepreneurship training and education, there may be limited industry-specific case studies, examples, and resources available through these academic routes. It is often beneficial to test-drive these programs through a free online portal and create your own curriculum that you can then complement with other industry sources. If you discover some courses with fees, be sure to investigate if an “audit” option is available, so that you can determine what works for you without necessarily investing your hard-earned dollars.

One of the most popular online platforms is massive open online course (MOOC) provider, Coursera. Although the options range from business to data science to engineering, all courses are based on a professional compilation of short video lectures, interactive quizzes, some peer-graded assessment, and virtual forums for connecting with fellow learners and instructors from top universities and colleges. For example, the University of Maryland offers an Entrepreneurship Specialization composed of three top-ranked courses: “Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies: The First Step in Entrepreneurship”, “Innovation for Entrepreneurs: From Idea to Marketplace”, and “New Venture Finance: Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs”.  These courses provide a general introduction to entrepreneurship, industry, markets and capital.


EdX is another virtual MOOC provider founded by Harvard University and MIT to offer courses from the world’s best institutions covering most of the same topics as Coursera. Again, EdX offers a number of programs in the entrepreneurship stream. Specifically, “Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer?” is a good place to start to identify the right direction to take your business in.

Aside from the virtual classrooms offered by Coursera and EdX, the enterprise-learning portal, Degreed, offers a curated collection of articles and videos from online resources. Specifically, Degreed’s “Entrepreneurship Learning Pathway” includes a series of lessons from a foundational overview of entrepreneurship to practical applications of entrepreneurship in action.  Some of the advanced topics include “Women Entrepreneurs”, “Economic Development” and “Global Perspective”.

MaRS Discovery District is a notable Canadian hub connecting entrepreneurs with resources, talent, and tools necessary to succeed. One of their flagship resources is the “Entrepreneur’s Toolkit”, which include a library of resources, hands-on workshops, as well as Canada’s largest live and online entrepreneurship course, “Entrepreneurship 101”. MaRS also offers a Certificate in Entrepreneurship in collaboration with the University of Toronto if you want to take your online learning to the next level. More recently, MaRS introduced the online portal “Bizsmarts”, which is a joint project with Futurpreneur Canada and Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) that provides a wealth of resources from basic start-up costs up to raising investment dollars.

Whether you are considering starting a business on your own or expanding your current business, knowledge is an invaluable tool in the entrepreneur tool belt. The examples above are but a few of the online education forums available for entrepreneurs. Keep in mind the same theory applies to all free online programs – you get out what you put into it. Ongoing engagement with peers and instructors, studying real-life scenarios and case studies, and finding programs that are relevant to your company, stage, product/technology, goals and even tailored to your learning style will be critical success factors in maximizing your online education experience.
 

Carolyn Dowling
Senior Analyst

Sources:
http://www.startupist.com/2015/01/06/entrepreneurship-in-coursera-three-courses-you-should-sign-up-for-this-january/
http://articles.bplans.com/11-excellent-free-online-courses-for-entrepreneurs/

 






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Farmer-Entrepreneurs Adding Value to the Agri-Food and Products Sector

Posted on January 27 2016 | Author: Carolyn Dowling

Primary agriculture in Canada plays a significant role in the economy as one of the most prominent and complex industries. As a result of fluctuating variables in the agriculture sector, including changing weather patterns, transportation, and global economic shifts, Canadian farmers are increasingly seeking alternative routes to market in order to mitigate risk and extend their market season. These farmers transitioning into agri-food and agri-product processors and manufacturers are a unique type of entrepreneur who demand specialized resources and support to enter the space, gain traction, and deliver on the bottom line.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) provides critical resources to start navigating the value-added sector:

If value-added food processing business is the next venture, OMAFRA’s online 2015 Guide to Food and Beverage Manufacturing provides commercialization considerations that every entrepreneur needs to make at the product development stage. The considerations covered in the Guide include quality assurance, marketing, pricing and distribution, as well as zoning and tax considerations.

The On-Farm Processing Recipe Based Costing Tool is another user-friendly online resource from OMAFRA which can help determine if value-added food processing is the right opportunity for you.  It analyzes the effects of ingredient, packaging and other costs on the product margin when scaling up to commercial format.

The Food Processing Human Resource Council (FPHRC) has launched the Innovations Road Map for Food and Beverage Processors , which is a start-to-finish online interactive platform for entrepreneurs moving from conceptualization to commercialization.

From a farmer-forward perspective, Farm Management Canada (FMC) has started bridging the gaps in the value chain by introducing Canadian farmers to sustainable business management strategies, including diversifying their market opportunities to increase their bottom line. FMC offers comprehensive online resources targeting the range of farmers from those individuals exploring their options to progressive farmer-entrepreneurs looking to make their next move. The following resources also include real-time case studies of Canadian farmers who travelled the road to commercialization before them:

The Agri-food Management Institute (AMI) provides complementary resources to both OMAFRA and FMC through two initiatives with Georgian College:

  1. Transition Smart- Farmers to Processors: This program is being rolled out in February 2016, aiming to connect farmers with the appropriate tools to enter agri-food processing, including operational planning, distribution and sales from a business management perspective.
  2. Food Entrepreneurs: Building Ontario Innovation One Product at a Time: This is a new food entrepreneur-focussed conference launching in March 2016, which will showcase local farmer-entrepreneurs, expert speakers and resources for new entrants to the space.

Although these resources are accessible to all Canadians, there are some additional programs targeting farmer-entrepreneurs in the Maritimes. These resources include:

  • The Future Farmer Program through PEI’s Growing Forward 2
  • THINKFarm through Nova Scotia’s Growing Forward 2
  • Innovation PEI provides programs that promote productivity, innovation, development, and commercialization in the value-added food and product space
  • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) supports the processing space more so than the primary production space through their funding opportunities that are focussed on business development and innovation. 

Bioenterprise has worked with a number of farmer-entrepreneurs who have turned creative farm equipment solutions or niche food products into a successful value-added business ventures. These individuals accessed available resources to realize their dreams, including connections to local incubators and hubs, professionals in product and market development, and public and private funding opportunities.

The aforementioned resources, programs and tools act as a springboard for Canadian farmers to explore or upgrade their natural entrepreneurial business acumen. Farmers are enabled to hone in their focus on the innovation, competitiveness and market development necessary to advance and capitalize on the emerging market opportunities in the agri-business space.  

Carolyn Dowling
Senior Analyst






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