Like many other university students, Ekaterina Shestakova is working at a day camp during the summer.

But unlike most students, she's the boss.

As artistic director of the Once Upon a Kingdom Theatre Studio, Shestakova is used to calling the shots, but this summer, the 21-year-old University of Ottawa student is taking on a new role — business lady.


With help from the provincial government's Summer Company program and the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation's Entrepreneurship Centre, the fourth-year theatre student will be running the Once Upon a Kingdom Theatre Summer Day Camp for children.

Shestakova is among 23 Ottawa-area student entrepreneurs who will receive $1,500 and strategic business assistance to help start a business. Students are also given another $1,500 when they complete the program.

While she said the grant certainly helped to set up the three two-week camps, Shestakova said having access to experienced business people through OCRI has been invaluable.

"It's very hard to start a business from nothing," she said. "This has been so helpful, instead of finding all the information yourself, you just come to the centre and they give it to you."

The young entrepreneurs in the program are also supposed to meet with a mentor once every couple of weeks, but Shestakova said she plans on phoning or sending e-mails more frequently for marketing, legal and bookkeeping advice.

A lot of the learning also comes from the other students in the program who may be wrestling with common obstacles.

"Any student who is at all entrepreneurially inclined, this is a really low-risk way to try it out," said Stephen Daze, OCRI executive director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Each year, many of the businesses starting in the Summer Company Program will continue beyond this summer and blossom into careers, said Daze.

In 2002, Richard Issac started a web development firm called Real Decoy that has grown into a continental enterprise with dozens of employees.

Although the first camp hasn't even started yet, Shestakova is already planning to continue running camps in October and hopes to continue with the business after graduating from university.

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