Summer company program helps launch young Sault entrepreneurs

The newest batch of young entrepreneurs is getting a head start on their careers, with help from the City of Sault Ste. Marie and the province of Ontario.

Ten local youths have launched their own businesses this summer, through the Summer Company Program, which provides grant money and mentoring to assist young entrepreneurs in their seasonal businesses.

"I noticed there was a bit of a market for the dresses I'm making, but nobody was making them," said Amelia DiCerbo, creator of Ivy's Dresses. "I tried to make something that everybody could buy or gift to other people."

DiCerbo's 50s inspired dresses for toddlers have become a hit for those shopping at the city's farmer's market.

She said her parents have let her section off a portion of their home, where she's able to make the dresses.

"They love it," DiCerbo said. "I'm kind of making a mess upstairs but they're really supportive!"

She said while meeting with her mentors has been difficult, it's still been incredibly valuable for her.

"I think these are great skills that they can build on. They're learning a lot from their mentors," said Jessica Maione, economic development officer with the city.

Maione said the program has gone to launch over 100 successful businesses in Algoma over the last decade.

Through the pandemic, she said there's been a wider focus on clothing and baking-related businesses.

For Jorja Santelli, the creator of "Jewels by J," she said her calling was jewelry instead.

"Being a recipient of this, it's helped a lot," Santelli said. "I probably wouldn't have been able to get everything without the grant."

She said her parents come from an entrepreneurial background and that starting her own business has always been something she's wanted to do.

"The mentorship component to this has been really helpful," Santelli said. "Like if something's not going right or I'm not getting sales anymore, she can give my ideas so I can get it out there."

The Summer Company Program is open to students aged 15 to 29.