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Fanshawe's LEAP junction is part of the campus-linked accelerator (CLA) program, an initiative of the Ontario Government and administered through the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE).
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Student entrepreneurs are running a film studio, record label and a fritter shop thanks to Fanshawe’s LEAP accelerator.

Any entrepreneur will say success is about taking a leap of faith. So Fanshawe College’s entrepreneurial hub is perfectly named LEAP Junction.

It stands for leadership, entrepreneurship, alliance, and passion and Annette Markvoort, entrepreneurial animator, says Fanshawe’s leadership knows those skills are essential today.

“It’s small and medium enterprises that are driving the economy and we need to create leaders who can work in those environments.The earlier that experience comes, the better it is.”

LEAP Junction launched in 2014 as part of the London Campus Linked Accelerator, a joint initiative with Western University funded by the Government of Ontario under the Youth Jobs Strategy.

Unlike many other campus entrepreneur hubs that are part of academic departments, Markvoort reports to the senior manager of Employment and Student Entrepreneurial Services.

“We see entrepreneurialism as being a big part of preparing our students for careers.”

LEAP offers one-on-one mentorship, advice and guidance, twice weekly workshops, program-specific in-class learning, pitch training and competitions, networking events and campus marketplace opportunities. Participants have high praise.

“The resources and the people here are invaluable.They help you take your passion and your idea and make it a reality,” said Nicole Coenen, founder of North Cut Studio.

LEAP has been fundamental in the starting of my record label in London,” echoed Richard Gracious of Forest City Records. “Without the opportunity I wouldn’t have been able to stray from my 9-5 and pursue a different career.The resources, tools and encouragement provided have given me the start to create a career out of a passion I have had for years.”

LEAP taught Kelvin Van Rijn, a baker’s son who launched a fritter business called The Fritter Shop, the importance of consistently conveying his brand’s identity.

“The general support and efforts from the LEAP staff to make my business
a success were phenomenal. I would recommend this program to anyone in the early stages of starting a business.”

New last year was LeapIN, a nine- week summer boot camp aimed at those age 18 to 29 who are leading start-ups. It offered 25 workshops delivered by faculty and community partners, deep experiential learning, seed funding and constant sharing among participants. Participants also worked in three London incubator and innovation spaces.

“That worked really well because it got the students into the city, making important contacts and learning what London has to offer to innovators.” Markvoort sits on the Entrepreneurial Support Network that has just launched a campaign to brand London as a city for entrepreneurs. Ultimately, she wants LEAP Junction participants to learn to create connections with other entrepreneurs and community resources that can offset the loneliness of being in business for yourself.

“If we can help them build a network, so they know who to reach out to for help or advice or for resources, that’s the best thing LEAP can do,” says Markvoort, who worked as a graphic designer and creative director for several organizations before striking out on her own in an events management and marketing company.

“I can’t tell you how rewarding this has been,” Markvoort says of her role at LEAP Junction.

“My boss teases me that these are almost like my kids. I do have three kids and there is such pride when you can pass on something you’ve learned to a young person and they find value and success in that.”

Read the full Perspective London 2018 Globe & Mail feature here.