Okanagan business students are stepping up their efforts to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in the Okanagan.
As members of SIFE – Students In Free Enterprise – the participating students have voluntarily gotten involved with, and launched, new programs to help encourage interest in business as a potential career and bring about positive change in their community.
But SIFE has now taken on a new name – Enactus, which is an acronym for Entrepreneurs, Actions and Us.
The re-branding of SIFE, a non-profit organization that operates in 39 countries with the involvement of 1,600 colleges and more than 57,000 students, is intended to help raise the profile of the group’s commitment to using the power of entrepreneurial action to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need.
Adrienne Renaud, a third-year Okanagan College business degree student, and vice-president of marketing for the local chapter, says the name change can be translated in other languages and still carry the same meaning.
Renaud, who transferred to OC from Prince George to get her business degree, says being involved in SIFE has been a life-changing experience.
“It really hit home for me in September when I went to our SIFE World Cup event in Washington, D.C. and saw what we are doing in these 39 other countries. It was just incredible,” said Renaud.
“I was looking for like-minded people when I found SIFE…its whole mandate is about positive economic, environmental and social change.”
Renaud said Enactus will continue to give students the opportunity to take what they learn in theory in the college classroom and put it to the reality test in the community.
“There is a lot of networking involved because it offers us the chance to get out in the community and meet people, and adapting the theory you learn in school to real-life situations is a great way to develop leadership skills,” said Renaud.
She said the Okanagan business community being small-business oriented presents challenges for graduating students who want to stay here rather than move elsewhere to start their business careers.
“Leaving for larger centres is a bit of a problem here in the Okanagan, but for myself my hope is that getting involved (with Enactus) will help get me involved in the community and make the connections that will ultimately help me to stay and find employment.”
She said one of the programs started under SIFE that will carry on with Enactus is to take the message of entrepreneuriship to students to the high school and middle school levels.
“It’s trying to get kids to focus on the idea of entrepreurship and what it can mean to them, to show them the viable options that can allow them to stay in the Okanagan and start their own businesses, that you don’t have to leave to earn a living,” she said.
Besides carrying out social and business advocacy projects in the Okanagan, Enactus participants are also involved in national and international business start-up idea competitions.