Ontario gives $1.7 million to entrepeneurs

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By Josh Wingrove

The Ontario government has pledged $1.7 million to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation to support the province’s young entrepreneurs.

Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Harinder Takhar made the announcement at Ryerson’s new business building on Tuesday. The cash is meant to help students with big ideas get their plans off the ground.

“Investment in entrepreneurship is an investment in a better quality of life for all Ontarioans. To me, it’s a quality investment,” Takhar said. “We want to make sure that young people who take entrepreneurship on succeed in life.”

Vivian Prokop, CEO of the CYBF, said the money will make 282 more grants available to students. Each grant is worth up to $15,000 in start- up money for businesses Prokop expects to generate $15 million in tax revenue.

“Many young people just don’t get that opportunity to get that funding,” said Prokop, who also announced a $12 million fundraising initiative.

“An entrepreneur is a different type of animal… they’re risk-takers. Those are the people we want to encourage,” she added.

Ryerson business graduates Chris Nguyen, Andy Lai, Lee Liu and Sundeep Mokha launched their company — job-search site Jobloft.com, which was featured on CBC’s Dragon’s Den — with the help of the CYBF.

“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here today,” Nguyen said.

After just five months, Job Loft has 30 major employers listing on its site, including Wal Mart and Rogers Video.

“It just shows that it’s do-able. We’re average students but we have the drive,” he added.

Other prominent CYBF recipients include Mike Lazaridis, president and CEO of Blackberry-maker Research in Motion.

Ontario’s $1.7 million investment was the largest yet from a province. The CYBF received $10 million in federal funding last year and has helped more than 1,700 entrepreneurs to date.

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