Student behind Young Entrepreneur program wins national award

LaurenSThe Okanagan School of Business student who catapulted SIFE Okanagan’s Young Entrepreneur program into an undisputed Kelowna success story has received a national award for her efforts.

Lauren Strang, 24, received the Project Manager of the Year award at the 2012 ACE (Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship) National Exposition held in Calgary last week. She graduates from Okanagan College in June with her Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

“This was such a great experience, and such an honour to receive this award,” said Strang, who spearheaded the Young Entrepreneur program this year in the Central Okanagan. “I really couldn’t have done this without our SIFE mentors and our partners at the College, the school district, and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.”

The program, which also runs in Penticton and Vernon, guides Grade 7-12 students through the paces of what it takes to run a business – from initial concept through to marketing.

Under Strang’s leadership, the Central Okanagan program grew significantly, from 50 to 76 teams with 209 students taking part from 18 schools in School District 23.

With so many participants, Strang needed more mentors so she recruited students from the College’s Okanagan School of Business, along with those from the community at large, including former Kelowna mayor Sharon Shepherd.

“This was the biggest project I worked on through my years with SIFE, and I decided to go big or go home,” said Strang. “It was a lot of work, a lot of networking, but if you find something you enjoy, you don’t need motivation.”

SIFE Okanagan Faculty Advisor Dr. Kyleen Myrah applauded Strang’s ability for creating incredible partnerships.

“What I appreciate about Lauren is her strong communication skills, hard work ethic and innovation,” she said.

Strang was only one of a large contingent of Okanagan College students who distinguished themselves at this year’s national competition.

Okanagan College’s financial literacy team (Tom Arrowsmith, Monika Jassi, Kris Goralski, Reema Gidda, plus Alejandro Valcarcel, an international student from Columbia based in Kelowna) came in second to Ryerson University for the Capital One SIFE National Financial Education Challenge.

The financial literacy team impressed the judges with its three-pronged family life-cycle approach that educates those struggling with numeracy issues, whether they are in elementary school, college, or trying to make ends meet as adults.

The program includes Road-Map to Financial Success which partners with Prospera Credit Union to educate college-aged students overwhelmed by student loans and credit cards, and Dollars and Sense,which works with Metro Up Financial Asset and Literacy Association of Kelowna to educate at-risk adults about budgeting and consumerism.

“We are so proud of the whole team effort and how the students are using their business skills to make a difference in their local communities,” Myrah said.

Overall, Okanagan College achieved high national standings in a number of categories:
–        Top 5 team nation-wide (team members from the Kelowna area included SIFE president Caroline Wyatt, Danielle Hofer, and Bill Wang)

–        Top 6 for the Scotiabank SIFE Green challenge (including Joey Colangelo, Brea Retzlaff and Dominique Tipton of Kelowna)

–        Top 8 for the TD SIFE Entrepreneurship competition (including Adrienne Renaud and Lauren Strang of Kelowna), plus

–        Third year in a row as the Canadian Let’s Can Hunger champion

More than 100 students from all four Okanagan College campuses are involved in SIFE Okanagan working on more than 14 projects a year.

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