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 at 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 — businesswoman.

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 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.”

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

“(For) any student who is at all entrepreneurially inclined, this is a really low-risk way to try it out,” said Stephen Daze, OCRI’s 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.

Some of the other business ventures include a personal assistance and temporary staffing solutions company, a business that serves court papers and a home-based tennis racquet stringing business.

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