Throughout the term, you will work with a mentor. This is a person who is experienced in your industry and is willing to act as a sounding board. All mentors must sign an agreement which outlines their role and expectations.
Students are expected to maintain regular contact with both their mentor and the E Co-op Coordinator. It’s important to keep in close contact with your mentor, even if you don’t have current questions or concerns. Keeping them aware of your activities allows them to point out opportunities you may not yet see.
Mentors will be supportive and provide relevant business development advice, and ask questions that will provide you the opportunity to reflect, re-affirm, or re-think aspects of your business plan or actions. Because E Co-op is an academic credit and a learning process, you the student/founder will make all final decisions and to retain full responsibility for any, and all, business plans and actions related to their venture.
We encourage you to find your own mentor as this will give you the opportunity to work with someone you already trust and have a relationship with. If you are unable to find an appropriate mentor or need someone with additional experience, the Enterprise Co-op Coordinator can assist you in finding an appropriate mentor.
Workshops and guest speakers
The term has a series of seminars for students to participate in. For those students who are not staying in Waterloo many of these seminars and workshops can be attended live at a distance.
These seminars and workshops go through the major elements of starting a business and give you the theoretical background you need to build a strong business.
As a student in a start-up, you’re most likely boot strapping your company – you’re investing your own time and money (and often the money of friends and family) to get the idea off the ground. This allows you to devote your own time to building a product and does not require pleasing investors or banks. This also allows you to maintain full control of your company.
As a student start-up there are several grants, bursaries, loans and accelerator programs you can apply to. These will all require a thorough application process and often come with some restrictions. This does, however, still allow you to keep full control of your company.
Many companies experience a time when they absolutely need to bring in outside, professional funding to their company. Companies who have a proven prototype, interested customers, existing sales or are looking to expand the business often find investments by Angel Investors or Venture Capitalists beneficial.
A bank loan can be the way of finding the money necessary to start a company but banks are naturally risk-adverse. Unless you are willing to put up something you own as collateral (such as a car or house), have proven sales or a letter of intent from a client, you are unlikely to receive a loan. Best case scenario, you will likely receive only a fraction of the value of your assets.
A great way to receive funding is to apply for grants. Although not always the case, grants are a great opportunity to receive free money.
A successful E Co-op term
A successful term is one where you have built the foundation of a successful business; understand your market, your customer and your competitors. You have developed a value proposition which is clear and can articulate your product/service to any stakeholder.
As with any co-op term you will be evaluated on leadership, dependability and response to supervision; communication, problem solving, and quality of work; as well as, setting goals, planning and organizing.
The best way to ensure a successful term is regular interaction with your mentor and coordinator, attend workshops, speaker series. Throughout your term you should find time to network with others in your industry, your customers, professionals and other E Co-op students.