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From idea to reality: the HBA students behind the Social Enterprise Fair

  • Communications
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  • Jan 22, 2015
From idea to reality: the HBA students behind the Social Enterprise Fair

Kevin Yu and Jordyn Fitzgerald, HBA '15, pioneered the first annual Social Enterprise Fair

Kevin Yu and Jordyn Fitzgerald had never organized a campus-wide event, but there’s a first for everything.

The two Ivey HBA2 students created and ran the first annual Social Enterprise Fair, which took place at Ivey on January 19. The Fair hosted an array of Canadian social entrepreneurs and was designed to show students what this unique career path could offer.

Yu and Fitzgerald, who have known each other since first year, say it was Professor Oana Branzei’s social enterprise class that inspired them to create something new. After toying with the idea of the Social Enterprise Fair with Branzei, Yu approached Fitzgerald for her help.

What started as a vague idea quickly became a reality. In just a few months, the students had picked a day, booked speakers, and planned all the logistics. A large part of the quick planning was thanks to Branzei, who pushed everything to happen in just under a semester.

“At our pace, we would’ve maybe been ready for February 2016,” Yu says. “Oana really got us moving.”

About the event

The Social Enterprise Fair turned into an all-afternoon event. It featured three main components:

  • TED-style talks by Canadian social entrepreneurs, including snazzy sock company Cole + Parker founders Diana and Jeff House, hybrid social enterprise SoJo CEO AJ Tibando, and Fire Roasted Coffee and Habitual Chocolate founder David Cook
  • a hosted panel featuring student-led initiatives and incubators at Western
  • an open discussion and career coaching moderated by successful Ivey alumnae Amanda Armstrong, Anita Lee, and Carolyn Burns

The event had a great turnout, with students from all over campus gathering to participate. Although they envisioned and promoted it as a campus-wide event, the majority of the crowd was Ivey students. Yu and Fitzgerald expect the turnout to be more diverse in coming years with better promotion and planning.

“This was never intended to be an Ivey only event,” Yu says. “When it comes down to it, the problems that social enterprises solve aren’t dependent on a single kind of faculty.”

Yu and Fitzgerald are set to graduate this year, but they’re excited to see what happens to the Fair in the future. They’ve already been in talks with other students who plan on continuing the event for years to come. In the future, they hope to see a social enterprise club that would collaborate with other clubs and students to make the Social Enterprise Fair a bigger and better event.

Ways to improve

Looking back, Yu says one thing they would’ve liked to see is more student involvement. Had they known so many students were interested in social enterprise, they could’ve collaborated.

“If we could’ve done it together, it would’ve been a better event,” he says. “The sole wall between these groups who want to work together is they aren’t aware of one another.”

Now that the event’s in the past, the two say they’ve learned to take chances. If they hadn’t given the Social Enterprise Fair a shot, they would never have known its potential.

“I was talking to one of our speakers at the event, AJ from SoJo, saying next year we wanted to make it better,” Fitzgerald said. “She told me ‘At least you did it. Done is better than perfect.’”

“It worked out really well because we tried,” Yu said. “In fact, it might continue working out really well.”

Words of encouragement

Yu and Fitzgerald advise their classmates and future HBA students to explore similar opportunities at Ivey. If students want to start a new club or event, Fitzgerald says, they shouldn’t let anything get in their way.

“Just try it,” Fitzgerald encouraged. “Even if you have a small window of time and you think there’s no way, you can find a way. There are so many support systems at Ivey and on campus, and other people who are willing to help. Don’t let those things be an obstacle.”