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Kyle Kirkegaard, the company’s outreach and educational experience manager, checks in with a student working in the YES edtech platformSupplied

Empowered Startups Ltd. wants more students to consider starting their own business, so the Vancouver-based global incubator created Young Empowered Startuppers (YES) — a program that teaches high schoolers entrepreneurship.

The program, launched in 2019 and currently taught in seven school districts across Alberta and B.C., takes students through a cutting-edge curriculum that covers various aspects of being an entrepreneur: from outlining a problem to finding a solution and taking an idea to market.

It’s a “plug and play” program that can be done virtually, in a classroom or via a hybrid model. The coursework includes assignments, collaboration and assessment tools delivered in a fun and engaging style that students can easily follow, says Naheed Henderson, chief executive officer of the Global Startup Accelerator at Empowered Startups.

“It’s not a lemonade stand builder — it could be — but you can also build a real-world solution through it,” she says. “It’s an all-inclusive road mapped edtech journey and that’s what makes it stand apart.”

The program was initially created for global entrepreneurs and then revamped for high school students, says Chris Lennon, president and general counsel with Empowered Startups.

While the YES program is a small percentage of the company’s revenue — schools pay a subscription to use the platform — it’s an area Ms. Henderson expects will grow. Empowered Startups plans to expand the program across Canada and globally. A school in New York is currently using it and the company has partners in India and Vietnam. Discussions are also underway to bring it to Japan.

A key element to the program is that it’s for both teachers and students, which means schools don’t need a specially trained entrepreneurship instructor.

“It takes a huge load off schools,” Ms. Henderson says. “We’ve had a lot of uptakes in more rural, remote school districts where they don’t have the ecosystem around them to otherwise support a robust entrepreneurship program.”

The program is gaining traction as more educators realize the importance of teaching entrepreneurial skills to help students succeed in today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing business environment, Ms. Henderson says.

The skills taught in the course, such as resilience and problem-solving, are useful across many industries and professions, Mr. Lennon adds.

“There’s value to learning these skills even if they never start their own business,” he says.

Ms. Henderson says many students in the program come up with amazing ideas, citing the example of one participant working on a zero-waste edible tape to keep sandwiches from falling apart. Students have also created social platforms and technology to try to solve social issues, she adds.

Empowered Startups also has Empowered Nations, an edtech platform that helps train, grow and support Canada’s Indigenous communities in entrepreneurship. It has reached more than 200 Indigenous entrepreneurs to date.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Ms. Henderson says. “We’ll see the impact grow and expand. It’s been hugely successful and warmly welcomed in community.”

Most of the company’s revenue is earned by facilitating research and innovation collaborations between universities, entrepreneurs and industry, Mr. Lennon says. It has strong relationships with universities and research institutes, where many ideas emerge.

“You could describe us as a university industry liaison office for hire,” he says. The company has operations in Canada, Portugal and France and is making inroads into the U.S., “which will probably be our biggest new addition to our growth,” he adds.


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Empowered Startups. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.