By Charlize Alcaraz
Under the non-profit organization Enactus, a Ryerson student has created a mentorship program meant to coach young people with business ideas.
Alessandro Farelli is the founder of the Youth Entrepreneurship Partnership Projects (YEPP) program, a 12-week workshop that teaches students from the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities and The Neighbourhood Organization—a Toronto-based agency that provides community services—about topics such as finance, marketing, branding, entrepreneurship and more.
At no cost, participants are matched with mentors who have backgrounds in business to help youth grow and develop their startup ideas. Farelli said YEPP has partnered with an undisclosed funder to allow for its mentors and graduates to get paid.
“The youth know what they want”
Enactus, which is a global group that connects student, academic and business leaders through entrepreneurial-based projects, provides YEPP with its mentors through its chapter at Ryerson.
In an effort to expand YEPP’s reach, it recently expanded the age criteria for its applicants.
“It was usually late high school students, but one thing that we really emphasize is engagement and having people that really want to learn,” said Farelli, who’s also a fifth-year economics and finance student. “We’ve actually opened it up to people who are within university, so people who are my age—younger, older.”
According to Farelli, some students in this cohort are upwards of 25 years old. And with the expansion of the YEPP program, along with added steps to apply, he said the current group has shown great engagement and involvement.
“The most integral part is really helping them grow as people, as professionals”
“This cohort is a lot more focused and confident,” he noted. “The youth know what they want. They might not know how to get there, but that’s what we’re here to help with.”
Since it started in July 2020, YEPP has managed three cohorts to date, with around 70 total graduates. According to Farelli, it has provided over $25,000 in seed funding, the first official lump of money that a business raises. For the current cohort, it’s rewarding $15,000 in prize money for a venture competition where each graduate can pitch their business idea to industry judges.
The fresh capital is only part of what young people can get from YEPP. However, Farelli said that not everyone that applies to the program intends to go through the entrepreneurial path, so the ultimate goal of YEPP is instead to help students with their personal development.
“For us, the most integral part is really helping them grow as people, as professionals,” he said. “Gain the skills that they need to get what they want from life, and then go after it.”