Innovative ideas can emerge at any age but there’s something particularly compelling when they sprout from our youth. That’s why North Forge Technology Exchange (North Forge) is proud to support young Winnipeg entrepreneurs through the MICE (The Met’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) program.
Scott Angus, instructor and mentor for the MICE program, explains how this happens: “I cannot say enough about the student’s work ethic and commitment. I noticed this past year how important the story was to each student. The student’s motivations, beliefs, and values were fully displayed, developed, and their businesses were showcased through the program. What makes me so optimistic about our young entrepreneurs is their willingness to put their authentic selves into their ideas – something our world always needs more of.”
Rory, a MICE program budding entrepreneur, from Maples Met School, had an internship at Oak Table, that helped shape her views and inspired her to pursue documenting stories. Angles of Reality: Winnipeg Voices of Resilience and Stories of Courage has been a project of Rory’s since Grade 9 and was completed in 2021, while in the MICE Program, as a published book. Part of her successful marketing strategy was promoting presales before investing in printing costs. Rory was able to secure about 200 presales and $10,000 in donations and through matching. Rory is donating 100% of the book profits back to Oak Table, where her project started. North Forge and Scott Angus helped Rory with marketing and her business development.
“It’s just amazing to think what someone can do with the support of the community,” said Rory. ”We can do so much more together than what someone can do on their own and that shows not only through the book but through my process of creating the book as well.”
Another MICE founder has worked with advanced manufacturing to feed his passion for skateboarding and developed Recycled Snowskates. Connor empathized with kids his age who skate when they are stressed or in a bad mood. He recognized that he uses his skateboard to “free his mind, help with his confidence, and challenge himself in many ways to escape the world.” During the pandemic, when skateboarding parks shut down and winter closed in on us, Connor discovered the magic of snow skating. “It snows for half of the year [in Winnipeg], so to solve that problem, I came up with the idea of making snow skates out of recycled materials,” Connor explained.
Presented with the opportunity to take woodworking training at the North Forge Fabrication Lab (FabLabTM), Connor used the facility for a few months during the school year to build his prototype. Being SAFE Work Certified at the FabLab provided the peace of mind that the students, like Connor, were working in a safe environment.
Marney Stapley, Vice President North Forge Technology Exchange, further explained, “Connor worked in the FabLab’s Bockstael Carpentry Room, on days that I was accessible. Every time he came into work on his business, he was accompanied by an adult who also received the woodworking training. Safety with the students is a priority.”
MICE student Muriel created her business Made by TMR to solve unethical clothing production and textile waste from fast fashion companies and consumers. Her solution included reducing textile waste by using recycled scraps and overstocked fabric. As with all the students, Muriel presented what she learned throughout the year. Her presentation included her business model, team, product, validation, target market, market size, financials, competitive analysis, marketing and sales strategy, operational timeline, and investment. North Forge also connected her with Winnipeg’s fashion guru, Lennard Taylor.
Other innovative businesses pitched included high-end furniture, customized planners, and a startup called Kriates, which manufactures positive messages on products.
Students now have the opportunity to enrol in the new MICE Light Program, at the grade nine level. This newest version of MICE was introduced in the 2020 – 2021 school year to acquaint students with entrepreneurship and give them a head start on the complete MICE Program in their following year. The six grade nine graduates’ final year-end project was a five-minute business pitch on their Lean Business Model Canvas. This entrepreneur-focused business plan zeroes in on problems, solutions, key metrics, and competitive advantages.
Joelle Foster, CEO of North Forge, attended all the MICE and MICE Lite business pitches to support the students. “I noted the broad entrepreneurial knowledge base of the students and was extremely impressed by the pitches. I have been to over 50+ pitch competitions and these were on par or even better than some startups I have seen pitched by adults.”
The 2021 – 2022 school year brings a new beginning for the North Forge MICE Program and the MET School. The MICE program has once again enrolled more students passionate about developing a business who will be paired with mentors to ensure targeted learning outcomes and help them feel supported. In September, the new home of the Exchange Met School, Met Centre for Arts and Technology will open its doors in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District, on Innovation Alley.