Business In The Streets
Our Impact Why We Exist
BITS is building people, particularly young leaders, through the power of business by providing access to training, peer and professional networks and various resources to help them overcome barriers to employment and financing. Since inception in 2012, BITS has educated over 200 participants many of whom reported on significant gains in their personal and business development through enhancing and obtaining valuable skills such as problem solving, research, sales, public speaking and financial literacy. Participants also reported on increased confidence and growth in their personal and professional networks. BITS supported over 33 businesses and provided over $70,000 to qualified graduates for professional and business development in collaboration with over 40 community and funding partners, 50 peer mentors and numerous volunteer industry experts.
According to the 2015 Toronto Vital Signs report, "youth unemployment peaked at 22% identifying itself as a chronic, structural issue." Additionally, it’s estimated that 10% (or 83,000) youth were presumed to be identified as N.E.E.T. (Not in Employment, Education or Training). Two of the four barriers facing N.E.E.T youth were listed as:
1) Systemic barriers which lead to weakened social networks (few mentors or role models) and
2) A lack of opportunities to gain meaningful experience.
This is why at BITS, we offer youth the tools and resources necessary to start their own micro-business as a means to increase the quality of life for themselves, their families, and their communities. Research has shown that businesses in the start-up phase (2 years or younger) have the highest rate of requesting external financing, yet the lowest rate of approval mainly due to their year-to-year fluctuations in sales, shorter credit history and higher loan default rate. (Statistics Canada 2013) This is largely due to the current state of formula lending, and unfortunately, many entrepreneurs don’t fit into a single box (CGA-Canada, 2010). This reality is exaggerated when compared to youth and other underserved populations.
Through our work in the community, our model has proven to be impactful among other demographics, and we decided to expand our programs to women, newcomers and other populations who have high potential to succeed as a business owner, but lack the resources and skills to do so. From Toronto’s Vital Signs 2015 Report: "...unemployment remains a more likely prospect for recent immigrants. Toronto’s youth, particularly those in Canada less than five years, continue to face troubling long-term trends."
Our Story What We Do
"I loved the mentors, the coaching, and the focus on managing money. I can’t thank BITS enough for their support. They look at character and drive, and that’s something that was sorely needed in the area of youth entrepreneurship, especially for youth like me who did not have the financial support from family and who have been through hardships that could otherwise challenge them from moving forward with viable business pursuits. BITS gave me hope, it gave me the tools, guidance and financial resources to monetize my purpose.” - 2015 Justice Arhampong, 2015 Program Partcipant.
Engaging, youth-driven program delivery.
BITS-trained peer-mentors are senior business students, recent graduates and young professionals who provide hands-on, individual support for program participants to tailor the program to their specific needs. Both mentors and participants build confidence, business and leadership skills, understand social issues, make friends, and connect with the community.Peer mentorship is rated as the most valuable feature of our programs!
Real-life, classroom-breaking learning. In the streets.
Our approach is focused on a "learning by doing" mentality. We take participants outside of the classroom into the real world to study Toronto’s vibrant markets and bring real case scenarious, industry experts and entrepreneurs into the room.
Multiple pathways to success.
We believe that entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but enterprising skills and community engagement benefits all. Upon completion participants have a choice of pursuing their venture and access start-up funding, engaging as a peer-mentor or access other training opportunities through BITS partner network.
We acknowledge that entrepreneurship, in the context of starting a business, is not for everyone, but enterprising skills, supportive professional and peer networks are beneficial to all. Starting and growing a businesses is often looked at as the ultimate goal. We want it to happen, but we understand that it won't happen to all the participants. Those who are ready for the next step will receive all the necessary business supports, but it is also important to acknowledge what happens as a result of the learning process and provide applicants with other supports and avenues to help them achieve self sustainability and improved quality of life. Our main goal is to provide safe, open, yet stimulating space for our participants where they can work on developing their ideas and businesses, develop transferable skills, perform reality check, develop professional networks and more. They might not be ready to launch or grow a business when they are in the program, but they will remember and come back to us when they are.
Our Programs How We Do It
BITS is offering business training, flexible micro-financing and on-going support services. Our training programs feature group learning, individual hands-on peer mentorship, industry experts, pitch presentation, engaging activities and potential financing opportunities. The financing program features character based low-cost financing with a matching grant and an on-going business supports for qualified applicants.
Community Workshops and Y.C.E.O (Youth Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) Program designed to help participants exploring entrepreneurship develop their business idea by learning and applying basic business planning skills in an interactive environment.
Boot Camp Program is an intensive training program for emerging entrepreneurs with tested ideas, products and services looking to develop an actionable business plan and pitch.
BITS Bucks Micro Finance Fund is an initiative developed in collaboration with the City of Toronto, Alterna Savings, Robert Kerr Foundation and private donors to support Boot Camp graduates with up to $5,000 and business supports.
What You Can Do
Get Involved as an Industry Expert Speaker, Panelist, Business Coach or Peer Mentor.
Contribute Your Services or Products to BITS Entrepreneurs (e.g. marketing, book-keeping, accounting, legal services, retail and office space etc.)
Donate to BITS - help us grow our impact by donating to the program of your choice or supporting our business operations.