Seneca HELIX: Creating a better, more inclusive world – one venture at a time

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What sets polytechnics like Seneca apart? It’s experiential learning—the opportunities to live your future before graduation, be it through work placements, applied research or access to industry-standard labs and equipment.

Or how about an on-campus business and innovation incubator where anyone can develop and accelerate their own venture from scratch? Welcome to Seneca HELIX.

Since 2014, Seneca students and aspiring entrepreneurs from around the world have seen their business dreams become reality at HELIX, which offers free access to incubation space, workshops, mentors and a network of innovators dedicated to their success. The results have been extraordinary.

More than 560 ventures have taken shape at HELIX, and 23,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs have participated in speaker series, networking opportunities and skills development sessions.

HELIX’s success stories include Adebola Adefioye, who founded the Afro Women and Youth Foundation to provide leadership programs for African immigrants, refugees, women and youth. Another HELIXer, Nurjahan Begum, founded the clothes line, Progoti, to raise awareness about exploited garment workers in Bangladesh and to fund life insurance policies and pensions for them.

“Our goals are to illustrate the negative impact of fast fashion and create a safety net for workers in Bangladesh,” said Ms. Begum.

Chris Dudley, Seneca’s Director of Entrepreneurship, is seeing a growing number of entrepreneurs focusing their efforts on social causes. He is also seeing more women and equity-deserving entrepreneurs exploring opportunities to create businesses. According to the Canadian Government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, only 16 per cent of Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are owned by women.

“Currently, women make up 34 per cent of HELIXers , and we want to grow this number by providing additional support and knowledge to help them realize their entrepreneurial dreams,” said Mr. Dudley.

To that end, the next phase of growth at HELIX, called HELIX RISE, will provide more targeted support for women and equity-seeking entrepreneurs. This has been made possible through a $300,000 donation from Scotiabank, one of HELIX’s longstanding philanthropic partners.

“HELIX Rise will help guide the evolution of HELIX ” said Mr. Dudley.

“We know that simply creating additional programming is not enough. Every class, workshop, event, coach, mentor, speaker and facilitator must reflect and welcome our whole community.”

See where a polytechnic education at Seneca can lead, and learn more about Seneca HELIX: senecacollege.ca