Lauren Watkins parlays Beedie experience into Next 36 stintMar 02, 2015
Beedie School of Business undergraduate student Lauren Watkins’ student experience has taken her to many exciting places – including internships at home with the Vancouver Canucks and further afield in China – and she now intends to leverage her latest achievement to solve a pressing social issue.
Watkins has parlayed the plethora of opportunities she enjoyed at Beedie into selection for the 2015 cohort of the Next 36, a nationwide initiative aimed at transforming Canada’s most promising post-secondary students into leading entrepreneurs.
“The Next 36 has been a whirlwind so far, but has also been a fun learning experience,” says Watkins. “The selection weekend is an incredibly intense three days – as soon as you are selected for the program you are immediately partnered with your co-founders and given only 24 hours to prepare a pitch.”
With her new social venture, Excellera, Watkins aims to connect retired professionals – who can possess a wealth of knowledge and skills – with professional firms looking to take advantage of their expertise.
Through a web application, the platform will connect seasoned professionals looking for part time, casual work with companies and people who need expertise in a variety of sectors, such as law, teaching, or accounting.
The service will help the retirees transition out of the workforce and provide meaningful work that utilizes their skills and abilities, without the commitment of a full-time job. It will also offer supplemental income that could help relieve some of the financial pressure of retirement.
“Often when people retire the sudden change affects them both financially and in their own identity,” says Watkins. “Excellera is intended to bridge this gap and overcome the loss to the workforce of these valuable professional skills. The support from the Next 36 has been very useful in the early stages of our venture. We have been paired with a mentor and been advised on lots of opportunities.”
As an Innovation and Entrepreneurship concentration major, Watkins was already familiar with entrepreneurial theory, with programs such as platFORM offering her experience in new product development that she says has proven invaluable.
Watkins application for the Next 36 was strengthened by the wealth of extra curricular activities she had enjoyed at the Beedie School of Business. Her first entrepreneurial endeavor was as program manager for Enactus SFU’s Banner Bags initiative, which collects used city street banners and turns them into reusable bags with the help of students in secondary school sewing classes.
She further supplemented her learning experience with two co-op placements, first in a media relations role with the Vancouver Canucks, and then in a guest relations role in Guangzhou, China.
Both co-op terms not only provided immediate learning experiences, but have also resulted in lasting legacies – Watkins still works for the Canucks in a part-time capacity to this day, and has continued to learn Mandarin after returning from China.
“After doing a co-op term in Vancouver I knew I wanted to do another but this time push myself out of my comfort zone,” says Watkins. “The experience was challenging but amazing at the same time. I am very grateful to the Beedie School of Business for the opportunities I have been afforded.”