‘Support local business,’ is a slogan that has been bandied about since time immemorial. But the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic have made that simple statement particularly difficult to implement. Our online lifestyle has also added a level of complexity to the challenge of promoting small business; although social media channels offer tremendous leverage, they are also very crowded. What is an independent business owner to do?
Recognizing the important role that small retail has to play in creating and maintaining a livable and thriving community, a team of McGill students has banded together to help local businesses connect with customers. Their offering, dubbed MTLocal, is a membership-based network that provides discounts for a small annual fee of $7. Remaining proceeds from the network are donated to a local charity as selected by members.
The project is all part of a much larger activity, called Enactus (which is a play on the words Entrepreneurial, Action and Us). Originating in the US, the Canadian operation now counts over 3,000 participating students who collectively launched 389 businesses in 2019. At the global level, Enactus activities have impacted 1.3 million people.
The McGill chapter of Enactus has been active since 2013, and has run several projects prior to MTLocal, including PreReq which helped integrate Syrian refugees to Canada. For current co-President Julia Enright, being part of the team has furnished her a chance to give back to Montreal itself: “I feel like I owe so much to the city, which has given me an education,” explained the Ontario-born economics graduate.
Project manager Vanessa Yang was also enthusiastic. “Enactus is anything that the students want it to be,” she said. The event is a particularly good fit for her, as a Business student with a major in Sustainability. “To be able to offer real, tangible experiences is extremely valuable,” she added.
Also involved as a mentor has been Eduardo Ganem Cuenca, a Senior Industry Liaison Manager in the Innovation and Partnerships Office. “Enactus is a tremendous opportunity for students to go out into society and find real solutions to actual problems. Being able to take part as an advisor has been thoroughly rewarding, and I cannot recommend the group enough as a way for any student to broaden their experiences and build their network.”
Thus far, MTLocal has attracted eight businesses and aims to sign up thousands of student members. The team foresees growing the network beyond the cohort of McGill student members to include other universities in Montreal, while at the same time increasing the percentage of profits that are allotted to local charities.
The Canadian national round of the Enactus competition is currently underway and will wrap up on May 20. The Enactus world cup competition will be held in October 2021.