Mark Kryshtalskyj, a fourth-year University of Waterloo Science and Business student and founder of Rockstar Café, was selected this week by Next 36, Canada’s premier entrepreneurial leadership program.
Rockstar Café, a combination of sustainable coffee house and entrepreneurial meeting place, has been Kryshtalskyj’s dream since the summer of 2013.
If you don't stand up for your ideas, who will?” says Kryshtalskyj.
Kryshtalskyj got the idea while working at a non-profit internship program and met students who wanted to do more than their job description. That same summer, he visited Harvard for a job interview and discovered the Business School’s weekly social networking café. He was also inspired by concept of the zero waste Tea Room at Queen’s University.
All three ideas converged to become The Rockstar Café.
Kryshtalskyj’s market research showed that 33 per cent of students want to discover their passion and just under half want to put that passion to a purpose.
He also discovered that Canada has a great network of macro-innovation clusters, but lacks the micro-innovation clusters needed to sustain a successful entrepreneurial pool. Rockstar Café would fill a market niche like the minor leagues developing the talent that feeds the major league rosters.
Kryshtalskyj and his team have since been busy promoting their idea across North America.
In addition to The Next 36, they’ve received financial support from the St. Paul’s GreenHouse Innovation Fund. Kryshtalskyj and the Rockstar Café are also in the running for the 2015 Enactus National Student Entrepreneur competition.
Kryshtalskyj credits his hard-won success to his dynamic and highly talented team, each of whom bring impressive CVs.
Although we have diverse perspectives and experience, we’re all passionate about social entrepreneurship,” says Kryshtalskyj. “It’s this diversity combined with a single purpose that makes us an ideal business team.”
The team members include University of Waterloo Students, Hannah Furlong (Environment & Business), Avista Shour (Arts & Business) and Anastasia Veeramani (Masters in Sustainability) as well as Jake Jardine and Adrian Tarnachowicz from Western University.
Their first proof-of-concept event last September, Rockstar’s pop-up café, was a hit, attracting 80 participants and speakers from Dallas, Toronto and New York.
At the time, we kept losing pitch competitions and were being told this idea would never make money,” says Kryshtalskyj. “The event proved there’s lots of interest out there.”
Rockstar Café is planning another pop-up café event this April focused on youth innovation and leadership in Waterloo Region. The program includes speakers, workshops and opportunities to meet local incubators.
Kryshtalskyj’s ultimate goal is to open Rockstar Café in every major university town. He sees an opportunity to create that special space between home and office for millenials, who yearn for a sense of community.
The Next 36 program, which includes custom courses and introductions to key investors, has enabled him and his team to accelerate plans for opening their first brick and mortar location by early 2016.
This is more than just an online chat room, but a central spot where you can find talent within your community, or even across the country,” says Kryshtalskyj.
Kryshtalskyj encourages other students with ideas to come forward and step outside their comfort zone.
For more information, please visit Rockstar Café’s new website.