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Millennials, Builders by Nature?

23 September 2016 by National Bank
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The Rémi-Marcoux Entrepreneurial Course ( Parcours entrepreneurial Rémi-Marcoux) was created to help Generation Y achieve its full entrepreneurial potential. Jean-François Ouellet, professor and entrepreneur, recently named director of the program, spoke to us about the course, the generation he's reaching out to, and the ideas he hopes to promote during his term.

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Photo: courtesy of Jean-François Ouellet

The course was born in 2014 by the initiative of a Quebec inc. pioneer - Rémi Marcoux - Transcontinental founder. "Mr. Marcoux found that HEC Montreal wasn't doing enough to promote entrepreneurial succession", explains Jean-François Ouellet.

Financed by the Marcoux family, the program is geared towards not only HEC Montreal students, but also the entire Université de Montréal student body.

Future doctors, architects, engineers, artists, everyone is welcome to join the course. Since it is not a prerequisite to have studied administration, nor to have a project in mind: "We're primarily looking for people who have entrepreneurial potential and who have the drive to advance themselves," explains the director.

How can we evaluate this potential? "We look at the candidate's roadmap: participation in a business community, school or extracurricular involvement, etc. We're looking for active and creative people, go-getters who start projects and who see them through."

In this sense, Jean-François Ouellet sees the Rémi-Marcoux Entrepreneurial Course as a talent "activator".

A course divided in two

The 8-month program takes place in two parts: "The first four months consist of a series of themed boot camps giving the participant the opportunity to better know him or herself as an entrepreneur," explains Jean-François Ouellet. "Creative workshops, situational exercises, etc. We want them to step outside of their comfort zone..."

The following four months have the students devoted to their entrepreneurial project. The course helps them shape their value proposition, their business model and provides them with access to a business network.

"The approach is in no way theoretical," says the director. "Participants are in contact with people in the field: entrepreneurs, lawyers and marketing experts. It's very concrete. When Martin-Luc Archambault [the dragon from the TV show Dans l’oeil du dragon] comes to meet us, it's not a professor who's speaking, it's an entrepreneur."

Also, this approach is ultra-personalized. "Participants all arrive with a different background," explains the director. "The goal is to take them where they are and help them bring their project as far as possible."

A course made for millennials

The course is intended primarily for Millennials, who make up the majority of the student body at the Université de Montréal. And you can really feel that the program was designed for them, focusing first and foremost on the authenticity of the approach.

"It's important to start off in business for the right reasons," believes Jean-François Ouellet. "Becoming an entrepreneur requires a lot of sacrifices. If you're doing it because of a passion or for self-fulfilment, it's a good foundation. If you also have a social goal, this is where we get the most resilient entrepreneurs."

The course is not there to teach participants an exit strategy, he continues. "The idea is not to sell your business as quickly as possible and to bank your first million at 30!"

"I think that millennials are builders," continues Jean-François Ouellet. "They are the next Jean Coutu and Rémi Marcoux of Quebec. They want to change the world. They are very strong in social entrepreneurship, and I think that the course is very open to that."

The proof is one of the course's greatest success stories, the company Potloc. The business founded by Rodolphe Barrère, which then went through the National Bank Accelerator ( Accélérateur Banque Nationale), aims to give citizens a voice when it comes to the retail projects allowed to open in their neighborhood.

Putting the course on the map

Having recently joined the course, Jean-François Ouellet intends to integrate some of his own ideas. "The course should be more present on the Montreal, or even the Quebec entrepreneurial scene."

The director also wants to create international opportunities. "I would like for participants to leave the program with their sights set not only on Quebec but the rest of the world."

He cites a recent mission in Mexico carried out by program participants. "The experience made them see that in Mexico, entrepreneurs have the natural reflex of looking toward the American market. For them, the local market is a platform to finance and polish their product..."

Message received. Future entrepreneurs, ready to conquer the world?

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