By: Namish Modi
Pioneering her own health tech start-up helped Katie Aubrey develop entrepreneurial skills for the future.
Aubrey, a fourth-year Therapeutic Recreation student at the University of Waterloo, took advantage of the Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) option to focus on her startup, Elevate.
Elevate is a platform for senior homecare that leverages technology to help people access quality of life services.
“I found being able to work on Elevate prepared me to be open-minded towards new opportunities, to have that confidence, to learn about myself and to learn new skills,” says Aubrey. “I learned skills such as web development, finance fundamentals and public speaking.”
The University of Waterloo’s Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business runs the E Co-op program in partnership with Co-operative Education and the faculties. In E Co-op, students can earn co-op credits while starting their own business.
Aubrey says the program offers the opportunity for students to collaborate, learn from each other and support each other while each working on their own businesses.
“Working on Elevate and in E Co-op allowed me to learn about almost every aspect of developing a foundational business,” says Aubrey, who is also pursuing a minor in Gerontology.
Elevating her skills
During her E Co-op term, Aubrey worked with a network of different teams of students, from a variety of faculties, who were also building their own startups. “It was a big collaboration of learning business fundamentals, propelling your idea, and working with teams,” says Aubrey. “Another component was applying to different pitch competitions through the Conrad school, so that was really cool.”
Although math was not her strong suit, Aubrey says working on Elevate for her E Co-op helped her to develop her finance skills.
During her previous work terms, Aubrey worked at Community Head Injury Resources Services of Toronto and Metta Lifestyles.
“E Co-op was my favourite co-op term,” says Aubrey. “It allows you to learn so much about yourself and develop an idea. You can propel yourself and really work towards your goals. I would strongly recommend it for students in their upper years who are looking for a co-op. I think you can apply a lot of your previous co-op knowledge into it. I think that (those skills will be) transferable when people enter the workforce full-time.”
She adds that E Co-op differs from traditional co-op terms in that it allows students to be able to focus on innovative ideas and be flexible in the way they pursue their ideas.
After Aubrey graduates, she plans to look for a full-time job while also continuing to grow her business.
“Elevate gave me confidence with learning about design and learning about basic finance fundamentals, how to make a website and how to reach out to people. Even in public speaking, I look back and I think being open-minded is just so important because I had no idea what I was getting into. I’m like if I want to do it, I’ve got to take a risk, right? I found that being in Elevate really prepared me to be open-minded towards new opportunities and have that confidence, learn about myself and just be open-minded to learn new skills.”