George Brown College's Enactus team aims to improve communities through entrepreneurial projects and the effects of its work are being felt far beyond Toronto.
In 2015, members of Enactus George Brown – a volunteer team of business students and faculty - established a program called Girls Going Forward in St. Lucia. The program, run out of a library in the village of Micoud, aims to help women gain financial independence through entrepreneurship. Girls Going Forward participants created a line of body scrubs made with local ingredients called Tropical Bliss.
Enactus member and third-year marketing student Adonia Vlasis oversees all of the Girls Going Forward programs, both in St. Lucia and Toronto.
"Women (in Micoud) definitely have a difficult time finding work opportunities and entrepreneurship is not often thought of as an opportunity for employment," Vlasis says. “Our thought process was to go and tell women that this is an opportunity and you can gain financial independence doing it."
George Brown students conducted sales, marketing and brand development training with the group in 2016. Earlier this year Vlasis worked with the group on targeting specific markets and conducted communications training. The program participants are hoping to sell Tropical Bliss products to resorts.
Kemberly Constable, a library assistant in Micoud, has been invited to an international conference to speak about the positive effects the program has had in her community. She won a scholarship funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to attend the Next Library event in Denmark in June.
Constable manages the Tropical Bliss operations in Micoud and trains new Girls Going Forward members.
Girls Going Forward in Toronto
George Brown students launched Girls Going Forward in Toronto in 2012 in association with the YWCA to help girls build confidence and learn business skills. The first Girls Going Forward group created a line of soy wax candles. Profits from the sales went toward savings for the girls' post-secondary educations.
Enactus members have expanded the program with help from the City of Toronto. Girls Going Forward is being rolled out in Enhanced Youth Spaces located in high-priority areas. George Brown students will be working with homeless Indigenous youth, newcomers to Canada and youth with mental health challenges.
"We're taking 22 George Brown students and we're having them visit each centre weekly and volunteer as facilitators and teach the business and the social part of the project," Vlasis says.
Participants in the program will form small teams and work to build up their own businesses. They'll get the chance to compete for prize money to jump start their ideas.
"It's really interesting working on Girls Going Forward because you meet so many different people," Vlasis says. "It can be hard. It's a lot of work but the most amazing thing is you get these moments when you see the impact. It's one of the most rewarding feelings."
Learn more about Enactus George Brown.