The Summer Institute program at UNB is defining success for entrepreneurs like Estelle Doiron.
Financial branch manager Estelle Doiron founded Koffee Skrub in 2016. Two years later, her business, now Koffee Organics, has more than doubled in size and is helping people take care of their skin.
Doiron has had keratosis pilaris, a dry skin condition that leaves red dots on the arms and legs, her whole life. “I tried prescription creams, every moisturizing lotion there is and nothing worked,” said Doiron. She discovered coffee scrubs through her attempts to find relief, but there were no organic or natural options available in Canada. As such, Doiron decided to make her own. “All my friends wanted to try it and it just went from there.”
Doiron debuted her product at a trade show in Moncton; when they quickly sold out, she realized her organic coffee scrub was in high demand. “That’s where we decided to keep going,” said Doiron.
When Doiron decided last year to pursue her business full-time, she applied for the Summer Institute program at UNB and was chosen as one of seven participants. “Every participant will say [it’s] overwhelming, but you learn so much that you need through the next three years of your business growth,” said Doiron.
The Summer Institute program first launched at UNB in 2016. According to Melissa O’Rourke, manager of the Summer Institute, the idea for this program came in response to the negative societal reputation of arts degrees. “There was an article in the Globe and Mail that said something like ‘stop getting arts degrees, you’ll just work in coffee shops’,” said O’Rourke.
O’Rourke believes arts students to be critical thinkers. “They’ve got amazing ideas and they can be excellent entrepreneurs,” she said. After a trial year of accepting only arts students’ applications, the program opened applications to everyone. “We recognize entrepreneurship isn’t exclusive to students. We want to make sure that our program is inclusive to all,” said O’Rourke.
The Summer Institute program is now responsible for the success of 24 businesses over four short years. Wear Your Label, Vertiball, Earthwalk and Stash Energy Storage are just a few businesses who found success through the program.
Once selected for the program, participants receive approximately $17 000 in funding to help grow their business. O’Rourke says the only requirement is that participants are passionate about what they’re pursuing; “We pay it forward to the entrepreneurs and we don’t really expect anything in return.”
10 designated mentors help participants through the 13-week program; their areas of expertise range from finance and legal matters to branding and design. Because the program now allows anyone to participate, they’re able to help young entrepreneurs like Doiron. “They redesigned my whole business and it was an absolutely amazing experience,” said Doiron.
Koffee Organics is hoping to expand their product line over the coming months. They offer their original 8oz coffee scrub for $18.95; they further added $7.95 bath bombs in 2018 and expect to launch a body cream this fall. Doiron says she has big plans for the company and wants to move into cosmetics. “The caffeine is actually great for your skin, great for your hair.”
O’Rourke said the ultimate goal of the Summer Institute program is to maximize businesses’ potential. “We take them through all of the steps to give them the skills they need to succeed in business.” O’Rourke says she’s in the best position to help anyone with an interesting idea strive; “It’s a pretty cool program. I’m very lucky with what I do.”
When talking of the program, O’Rourke said “you get to define your own version of success.” Whether you want to have a small business in your hometown or “you want to be an international company that takes over the world, you can do that,” said O’Rourke.
Doiron defined her success by translating her love for coffee and skincare into a thriving, organic business. What’s your version of success?