Becoming a student entrepreneur

March 2016
Groundit_Mitalie_lg| Mitalie Makhani, PhD candidate in Natural Resource Sciences

Groundit was one of several Macdonald teams to enter the 2015 McGill Dobson Cup and to be mentored by the Macdonald Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program.  The program supports student entrepreneurs through mentoring activities, a new Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation offered in collaboration with the Desautels Faculty of Management, and by attracting funding to support student business ventures such as the Food and Agribusiness Convergent Innovation Prize, which will be awarded to a team entering this year’s Dobson Cup competition. Mitalie Makhani, one of the founder’s of Groundit, shares her journey.

Four months into my PhD, I realized that something was “missing” in my life but I did not know what it was at the time. I do not own a TV, so I started to read more about entrepreneurship during my spare time. I was drawn to it. Surprisingly, it helped fill in the void. But I was craving more! Soon after that I met Audrey Bolduc, a business student from the McGill Desautels Faculty of Management. Looking back, it was essentially “business” love at first sight! Long story short, our waste management start-up, Groundit, won a top spot in the Small & Medium Enterprise track at the McGill Dobson Cup 2015. Today, we are pushing forward at full force to get Groundit off the ground!

One of the greatest things I learned from this experience is that I love challenging myself and pushing my boundaries. This defines me. This is the best way I learn and it allows me to be innovative and unleash my creativity. I developed a sense of self-analysis and I was able to truly exercise my critical thinking skills and gain a renewed focus and energy in my life. I am truly in my element and I like the new and improved “me.”

It is an understatement to say that it is hard to balance a PhD with a start-up company. There is no straightforward answer as to how I try to achieve balance in my life. All I know is that it is important enough to me, and I push forward. Working on a start-up has enabled me to view life differently. I view the idea of failure as a positive thing because you learn more from failure than you do from success. We all encounter problems in our work, school and everyday lives. It is how you overcome these problems that makes you successful.


Getting a New Product off the Ground

PumCrisp_300Students Sonia Périllat-Amédée, Anne Frazer-McKee and Tamao Tsutsumi (pictured L-R) have just returned from competing in Pulse Canada’s Mission ImPULSEible which was held during the Canadian Institute of Food Science & Technology Conference in Vancouver on February 22. According to Professor Salwa Karboune, “The team performed very well and we are extremely proud of them.” The team recently took first place in the Quebec leg of the competition.

Their product, Pum’ Crisps is an innovative snack food that combines the deliciousness of apples and cranberries with the vibrancy of beets and the healthiness of chickpeas, lentils and peas.  The crisps are topped with decadent chocolate that has been enriched with pea protein.  The product was created in Professor Salwa Karboune’s Food Product Development course.

The team was sponsored by the Student Experience Enhancement Fund (SEEF), thanks to the generosity of Macdonald donors.

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