Ever since GreenHouse alumna Aileen Agada began her venture BeBlended – a company focused on the black hair care industry –  she has kept a notebook in which she jots down every idea and possibility that occurs to her. But soon, Aileen might need to add a few extra pages to that notebook.

This is because Aileen has been chosen as one of only 36 young entrepreneurs from across Canada to take part in the 2020 Next36 program. The program which began in 2010 is an eight-month Toronto-based incubator that provides mentorship, venture funding and education for these entrepreneurs. During the first four months, participants work remotely on their ventures with assigned mentors supporting their progress. In May, they will move into residence together in Toronto where they will work intensively on taking their venture to the next level.Aileen entrance into Next36

The idea behind the program is to support entrepreneurs who are one in a million – there are approximately 36 million Canadians. This meant that the application process was a rigorous one, focused on finding young people with the qualities to launch a business that has the potential to drive the Canadian economy in the future. In the fall of 2019, 900 hopeful entrepreneurs submitted an initial application before undergoing a video interview. From this group, 80 were shortlisted and were brought to Toronto for a selection weekend where they were interviewed by multiple founders of various organizations before the list was narrowed down to the final 36, including Aileen.

Social entrepreneurship wasn’t a criteria for selection, but interestingly there was a significant spike in entrepreneurs who were pursuing social and environmental good in this cohort – the director of the program says that nine out of ten people interviewed this year were engaged with a venture that had something to do with social innovation, and this was an emerging trend.

Aileen says her main goal for Next36 is to grow her professional network and to develop a scalable business model and plan for BeBlended. Now in her third year of environmental engineering and with her platform launching this month, Aileen says, “After graduation, ideally I want to work on BeBlended full time. I’m doing the groundwork now to push my platform to become more robust and tackle the hair care industry at a quicker pace.” About Next36, she adds, “I’m really excited. Challenges will come but I’m confident this is a pressing problem that I have the tools and drive to fix. I feel really good about it.”

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