Carter Buchanan is studying entrepreneurship at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), but that hasn’t stopped him from already running three small businesses – between and often during classes.
“Sometimes I hear something in a class and realize I should be doing it so I’ll quickly go online and make the change on one of my websites,” he says.
He’s just the kind of student Ashif Mawji had in mind when his family gave $1 million to help establish the Mawji Centre for New Venture and Student Entrepreneurship at NAIT. This is the largest gift ever made by an alumnus of the Edmonton polytechnic that delivers education in science, technology and the environment, business, health and trades.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate entrepreneurship and give students in Alberta a leg up – to provide them with mentorship and help them be successful. When I first started, I wish I would have had access to this sort of help. I think it would have helped me get even further at a young age,” says Mr. Mawji.
Mr. Buchanan describes the Mawji Centre, which operates within the JR Shaw School of Business, as a hub for entrepreneurship that provides students the facilities they need.
“It takes us from our basement to a business setting. Now we can have a meeting in a room where all the resources are in one place – projectors, whiteboards, everything we need for brainstorming and idea creation,” he says.
But not only business students will benefit from the new Mawji Centre.
“We will be offering programming, mentoring and education to students from all schools at NAIT such as culinary arts, digital media and photography to name a few. Many of these students are either going to work for entrepreneurs or become entrepreneurs themselves,” says Max Frank, director of the Mawji Centre.
While these students can expect to learn how to write a business plan or obtain financing, the Mawji Centre will not operate as an incubator.
“We are not going out to industry and having them come in with their products. We are focused on human capital, helping our students develop skills as entrepreneurs,” she says.
Ms. Frank also believes the Mawji Centre has a valuable role to play in the tight-knit entrepreneurial community in Edmonton by bridging the divide between groups that support entrepreneurship and the students.
“We can link students to other organizations in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Edmonton, maybe TEC Edmonton, Startup Edmonton or Business Link,” she says.
The Mawji Centre also provides appropriate space for some student competitions and organizations like the International Club and the Enactus Club that focus on social entrepreneurship.
Mr. Mawji is a co-founder and key adviser at Trust Science, a new platform and app that calculates the trustworthiness of individuals and businesses. He is also the former CEO and founder of Upside Software, which he sold in 2012. Mr. Mawji served on NAIT’s board of governors from 2004 to 2010. He was awarded a NAIT honorary bachelor of business administration degree in 2017, named one of NAIT’s Top 50 Alumni in 2012 and received the Alumni Award of Distinction in 2003.