An E Co-op student’s home decor business venture

Photo of Madison smiling Madison Greenough, a fifth-year Math and Business double degree student, shares her transition from a traditional co-op to E co-op and what her experience has been like building her own business.

Before switching to E co-op, Madison had done three co-op work terms. For her first one, she worked at Sun Life Financial in their head office as an analyst in the IT department. She then worked at an aviation company called NAVBLUE (a subsidiary of Airbus), where she worked as a Junior Accounts Receivable Administrator. Lastly, for her final co-op term, she worked at British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) as a Cash Operations co-op student.

Originally, Madison planned to continue with a regular co-op stream, but after suffering a concussion, she was unable to continue the rest of her co-op terms. Because of this unexpected change, she decided to look further into E co-op and give it a shot! After doing some research and looking at her options for starting a business, she came across Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), a service that gives businesses access to Amazon’s resources (e.g., shipping, customer service, etc.), to help them reach more customers and grow. Both Madison and her partner were interested in woodworking. Taking their hobby and Amazon FBA, they came up with Beaverdam Designs, a business that specializes in handmade home decor products!

What projects did you work on during your E co-op term?

“During this E co-op term, it kind of started with an ignition week for the first week. It was basically a crash course in entrepreneurship, networking, and all of the resources that we would need heading into the work term. From then on, they kind of leave it open-ended. We're able to choose our own hours, choose our own tasks that we want to spend our time on. I had my prototype all created, heading into the term. So, for most of the term, I spent time on establishing social media and a website, and establishing the list page to sell the product and manufacturing 200 units.”

Madison's business logo, which has a silhouette of a beaver and the title "Beaverdam Designs", on a white brick wall.

 

“I then kind of worked on learning marketing skills to help on social media and to help sell the product, and working on maintaining that throughout the rest of the term.”

What are the differences between this experience and previous experiences?

“I was very lucky to have three really great co-op jobs prior to this, and I really enjoyed them, but this was definitely a very unique and fascinating experience. It was completely different than all of my standard co-op jobs. I really enjoyed the flexibility of what this E co-op term provided. The ability to not only just decide on my own daily tasks, but to decide the entire direction that the term would go in was completely up to me.”

“In the past with my co-op jobs, I've shown up on the first day, and they kind of outline each month of the co-op term. They're gonna say, “Oh, you work towards this project, and you'll be working on this project for your whole co-op term.” But, with E co-op, the first week we were given the tools and resources to make our own decisions, and then we were left on our own with support if we needed it. We were allowed to decide for ourselves where our time is best spent.”

Photo of a man who is about to slice wood with a wood cutter machine, with trees and grass in the background.

 

“I really enjoyed all of the trust that our work supervisor, Wayne, instilled in all of us to be able to pursue our own ventures how we saw fit.”

“It's super unique that all of these resources are available to us, and that we're able to kind of be self-employed for the co-op term, which I found really valuable. [...] it allows a variety of lifestyle changes and lifestyle opportunities to kind of fit into our educational pathway, and I really benefited from it and I think a lot of other students would as well.”

- Madison Greenough, fifth-year Math and Business student

Photo of two wooden wall stands, with candles and a plant on them. The products which are sold by Madison's business.

What kind of skills did you develop during your E co-op term and how did they differ from skills developed during a traditional term?

“I’m doing a double degree, and my second degree is in business. So, I think I went into the co-op term a little bit naive thinking that I knew everything I needed to know in business compared to my peers, who probably weren’t. But, in our first week, we had ignition week, and we kind of were given a crash course in entrepreneurship and networking and everything. I actually learned a lot.”

 

“I don’t want to tell my business professors this, but that was the most efficient and the most learning that I’ve done probably in my entire business undergrad. It was great to hear a variety of speakers and presentations about their experiences and skills that they’ve applied in the real world and have helped them, as opposed to just theories and concepts in textbooks. They taught us a lot of real technical skills that could actually be applied in the business world, which was great!”

Photo of two wooden wall stands. One with a plant on it, and the second one with a lantern on it.

What has been the most challenging thing about starting your own business? 

“There's obviously a lot of challenges that everyone faces when doing anything, especially starting your own business. I'm very goal-oriented and I sometimes set too high expectations for myself, so I had a long list of goals and tasks to complete. I found there were always little things that would interfere with that, and that would take up more time.”

 

“I learned how to set reasonable expectations and to try to account for anything that could go wrong, and just kind of having contingencies in place that if you don't have enough time to meet a certain expectation, what you're going to do as a backup. I think that was my biggest challenge for sure.”

What’s next for you?

“I’ve actually decided that I want to pursue a data science master's degree. I'm in the process of applying for graduate school right now. If I'll be pursuing this business throughout school? That's probably likely, I don't know long term if I will continue to do so. But long term, my goals would be to work in analytics, whether through sports analytics or health analytics. That's kind of what I'm looking at now. But, I think the E co-op term and this business has definitely helped me to realize those desires and to kind of help have a project to talk about in interviews and everything. So, I think it's definitely been very valuable to me as a kind of career-building opportunity.”

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