Madeleine Bazerghi is the Project Lead of the Entrepreneurship Initiative of Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Dawson College, Montreal. She is a passionate educator, inspiring mentor, creative leader, great communicator and connector. Madeleine stays behind the overall concept development and actual management of the Centre, as well as the iC MTL incubator. She was so kind to answer a few questions related to the current state and future development of these important projects.
1. Founded in 2012, the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education seeks to be the reference in Quebec’s college network for entrepreneurship promotion, awareness, education and incubation. What was behind the rationale to establish the Centre and what is your main personal and professional motivation to work for the Centre?
At the time, in 2011 a study released from the Fondation de l’entrepreneurship revealed that entrepreneurial activity in Quebec fell behind the rest of Canada. The study indicated that Quebeckers intend to create new companies at half the rate of other Canadians in the next ten years. Overall Quebec’s young entrepreneurs were less educated in entrepreneurship and earned revenues significantly below the Canadian average. The study led the Ministry of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade of Quebec at that time to include entrepreneurship in its strategic plan.
The time was right. People were starting to talk about entrepreneurship and Dawson College’s Academic Dean Bob Kavanagh asked me to do a feasibility study for an Entrepreneurship Centre. I attended a 3-day symposium for entrepreneurship education at Babson College during the information phase of the project. Babson is ranked No. 1 for entrepreneurship education in the US. I returned to Montreal energized and excited to be part of building an entrepreneurship center on campus. I understood that entrepreneurship was not about business management and that it was in line with my own values and pedagogical philosophy – to empower youth to take on challenges and solve problems.
The feasibility study turned into a love affair with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, as well as with the possibility of getting others excited about it. I was eager to create an action plan to help students apply their leadership, initiative, perseverance, and creativity (to name a few) to entrepreneurial ventures.
I have been having so much fun since I started this project because it has allowed me to pursue my vision to change the way we teach. The Centre started offering workshops, a complementary course in Design Thinking and put together an entire week of activities during Global Entrepreneurship Week in November that attracted over 2 500 participants over 4 days. We are now in the 6th edition of the event. In parallel, the Centre developed and incubator for the creative and cultural industries – iC MTL.
2. iC MTL incubator, dedicated to cultural and creative entrepreneurs, is a great new place in the heart of Old Montreal. How would you describe the main uniqueness of this incubator and the added value for startup entrepreneurs?
Most incubators provide co-working spaces, mentorship, coaching, and opportunities for incubees to network and access to clients. We went a step further – to accompany emerging entrepreneurs with a credited college program approved by our ministry of education and offered by Dawson College and Cégep du Vieux Montréal. The program provides a pipeline to accelerators and is focused on the pre-startup phase of building a venture in the creative and cultural industries.By creative and cultural industries we mean the following: Advertising, Architecture, Audiovisual, Commercial and Fine Art Photography, Crafts, Design, Entertainment, Fashion, Gastronomy, Multimedia, Music, Performing Arts, Publishing, Visual Arts.
The program develops entrepreneurial competencies and not management competencies. We are neither an MBA nor a Business Administration program. Business courses are available by the gazillions in most educational institutions. In fact, we dedicate only 90 hours out of the 8 month program to business skills. We help creatives launch businesses – their own startup companies. We don’t write business plans or do accounting, we act! We use the Lean Startup approach adapted to creatives by incorporating Design Thinking. Our ultimate indicator of success is that we have taken incubees/students from an idea to a launch of their company in the creative and cultural sector.
Our programs define both our uniqueness and our challenges: to accompany creative and cultural professionals. Most of the support in Montreal is for high tech, web and mobile apps or engineering and health. There isn’t much support for the medium to high growth creative or cultural enterprises. This is why we jumped on the opportunity to nurture potentially scalable companies. The challenge is that there are no precedents here in Québec so that we are relying on our incubees to help us help them.
We want to help creatives think beyond being a self-employed worker and guide them towards building companies so that they can continue to earn revenue when they are sick or on vacation. Our instructional program augmented by incubation services includes a beautiful space in Old Montreal. We don’t chalk and talk in our “classes”, we guide and facilitate the development of real companies.
3. I had the pleasure to participate this week at the iC MTL Networking Lunch “Connecting & Inspiring Creative Leaders”: a wonderful opportunity to meet young entrepreneurs and get inspired by their questions and inquiries. Could you please share some of their projects that are particularly innovative?
Yes, it was nice to see you there. In fact it was one of our activities for the Customer Creation course where students learn how to build their network. We were putting their networking skills to the test by inviting entrepreneurs, their mentors, city officials and the education community to meet and greet the students. They got to practice presenting themselves and their projects. There are overall 20 projects, so let me just mention a few:
- We have the phantasmagorium.com – an experiential museum that invites local and international artists to exhibit their interactive work. The project will start with Virtual Reality works. It’s a unique concept only the founder, Dustyn Lucas, an amazing 2D and 3D artist can explain.
- We have a blogger, Stephanie Coco-Palermo. She founded vagabonheels.com, a woman solo travel blog. She is exploring ways to monetize her blog and writing skills.
- Another incubee, Alex Leung, fabricafe.ca is creating a 3D food printing business and is waiting for the technology to catch up to his idea. In the meantime, he is developing his business model, supplier connections and potential client base.
- An amazing boutique visual agency Loc& Mac, a husband and wife team – Liliana Ortis Casis and Mateo H. Casis – produce amazing, unique and quirky imagery for brands.
- Pierre Vosgueritchian, an industrial designer who is working on commercializing his creations – quality products whose design can be customized by the consumer –www.gudd.co
There are so many more of them but I would only be boasting! I am so proud of all incubees in our first cohort who have brought this program to another level by feeding it with their energy, willingness to collaborate and creativity.
We will be starting a new cohort in the fall 2017 and applications will start soon in the month of April.
If you know anybody who might be interested in dedicating the next winter months to launching a venture send them to www.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/icmtl
4. Who are iC MTL main partners and stakeholders? How do they help iC MTL’s development, and respectively-benefit by being involved?
Our main partners are:
- Cégep du Vieux Montréal who will offer the same program in French, in the same space.
- PVisio, powered by Fuller Landau, that offer a free session for any one of their services of Strategic Planning, HR, Accounting and Web Development to our incubees. Fuller Landau has been a Dawson College Eweek supporter from the beginning. Josh Miller, loves the world of startups and loves giving back.
- Legal Logic, a law firm offering half an hour of legal advice every Tuesday at IC MTL. Jamie Benizri and David Kynan help young startups and in the process get to grow their network.
- The Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur and the Canada-Quebec Agreement on Minority Language Education and Second Language Instruction.They were instrumental in the development of IC MTL and the Dawson College Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education with their financial backing.
5. What is next? Could you please share the phases in the strategic development of ic MTL? How do you see it in the year 2022?
With the amazing talented people we have around us now, we will grow it to be the reference for creative entrepreneurship in Canada. We hope to move into a bigger space in the Quartier de l’innovation in order to accommodate at least 4 cohorts a year. We wish to partner with an accelerator in the same space and offer graduates an opportunity to continue being supported as they scale. We will start offering boot camps as well and will become the local representative of the Creative Business Cup – a global competition for creative startups.