Recognizing trends in the education system as well as the economy toward entrepreneurial thinking, MaRS kicked off its 2015 Future Leaders summer camp this week. In partnership with SAP, the MaRS Future Leaders camp brings together mentors, entrepreneurs and 45 young people to demonstrate that entrepreneurship is a fun, valid and viable career path.

In this one-week program, the next generation of entrepreneurs will invent and test an original business idea, learn critical skills to future success and pitch for a chance to win a $1,000 cash prize.

Day 1: Personal Branding

Day 1 began with a personal branding exercise, where students were asked to classify themselves as hackers, designers and hustlers. According to the Startup Genome report, teams that have someone in each of these roles are the most likely to succeed. Hackers are the ones who comes up with creative solutions, designers are the ones that make it user friendly, and hustlers are the ones that sell it.

After they formed their teams, the Future Leaders students were tasked with listing all the different ways they could make use of a shoe. This is a creativity exercise which measures ability by how many ideas you come up with and how unique those ideas are. From “a place to grow plants” to “a home for an old lady,” answers came from all over the spectrum. The purpose of this exercise is to break students out of the practice of trying to find the “right” answer—focusing on finding the right answer often impedes progress, not to mention that people’s perception of the right answer often stops them from recognizing the best answer.

MaRS Future Leaders Twenty One Toys
MaRS Future Leaders learn risk-taking, empathy and collaboration with with Twenty One Toys.

After this, students got to meet Ilana Ben-Ari, founder of Twenty One Toys. Twenty One Toys uses toys to teach risk-taking, collaboration and empathy. According to one of the Future Leader students, Allison Kapps, “it was great to see a successful female entrepreneur who was down-to-earth and different from what entrepreneurship ‘looks like’ in the media. Seeing the fire she has was a big reassurance of my ability to pursue the same goals that she did.”

Coming up with solutions to real problems

After this, the MaRS Market Intelligence team gave students a look at some of the larger trends affecting the world, and challenged them to come up with both problems and solutions to some of these issues. Student groups ended the day with three ideas that they were asked to do background research on at home.

Interviewing potential customers is on Day 2’s agenda, and Allison is excited for it. “What I often struggled with entrepreneurship was thinking that I had to come up with solutions myself and feeling that everything had already been created or invented. The idea of asking other people is exciting and gives me a more informed view of how to approach a certain problem.”

We will be posting recaps every day this week from the camp. Stay tuned for another dispatch from Future Leaders tomorrow!

Read the full dispatch series:

Jeremy De Mello

Jeremy is an intern with the Venture Services and Entrepreneurship Programs teams at MaRS. He is studying towards a dual-degree in business and political science at Western University and the Richard Ivey School of Business. See more…