The FastStart Experience: How one DC student learned how to PitchIt

By Andrew Neary, Journalism – Mass Media student

With the school year behind us, Durham College’s (DC) FastStart students can now shift their focus from grades to the grind. Summer is the perfect opportunity for them to invest in their businesses and earn money to sustain the next year of education at DC. Like many students, I hit the ground running at the end of April, ramping up Kettleboy, my coffee roasting production, and spending more time connecting with my community. Thankfully, FastStart and the Ontario Colleges Incubator Network (OCIN) provided the perfect opportunity to kickstart my business-focused season.

Over the past year, the FastStart team supported me in transforming my business from a personal project into a fully realized brand. Though I spent most of my time on schoolwork, FastStart helped me operate my business and make enough money to be comfortable while studying. The team also shared opportunities for me to find funding and additional mentorship.

In March, Durham College’s entrepreneurship office, ORSIE, and OCIN created a pitch competition for students to showcase their work and compete for funding. Faculty advisor Jay Fisher taught me how to develop a business model canvas, and FastStart’s videographer helped me record my video pitch. A few weeks later, I received fantastic news: I made it into the finals with eight other businesses. It was time to craft a live five-minute pitch for a panel of executives to judge.

In the week leading up to the finals, the FastStart team helped me craft a better presentation than I could have imagined on my own. Their graphic designers put together a template that pulled elements from every portion of my brand book. Meanwhile, Jay helped me organize the flow of my story. Every team member contributed finishing touches leading up to the event.

Despite my nerves at presenting before a half-dozen judges and ten times as many audience members, I pulled from the storytelling practice given to me by faculty advisor Danielle Harder. FastStart’s workshop on using the Campus Library for research meant I knew my industry data perfectly; I sailed through the question-and-answer portion. All the student businesses and owners were excellent. As I watched, I had to send a flurry of messages to the team to calm myself, breathlessly waiting for the hosts to announce the final ranking.

Kettleboy placed third at the OCIN PitchIt competition. With FastStart’s support, I won grant money to help me move to the next level of operations and a Shopify package to expand my online services. Becoming a client at FastStart DC has been an incredible experience as an entrepreneur and student. I am grateful for this team and hopeful that every student interested in business ownership at DC takes the time to meet the team and sign up. FastStart changed my life, and it could do the same for you.