Humber student businesses get seed fund boost

by | Apr 8, 2015 | News

Jennifer Berry
News Reporter

Student entrepreneurs and HumberLaunch’s New Venture Seed Fund program are making beautiful music together. But becoming one of the nine student business startups that secured up to $10,000 in grant funding this year from the HumberLaunch program doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work and resourcefulness.

Recent Humber Bachelor of Music graduate Jordan Circosta, 23, is a part of Headquarters Collective (formerly Headquarters Cooperative), the five-member Toronto grassroots music promotions company that’s getting a boost with $10,000 in New Venture Seed Fund winnings.

What started five years ago as a group of musicians “dirt poor and just out of high school” splitting a jam space in a condemned building, collaborating and sharing resources, has flourished into a legitimate not-for-profit business promoting bands and organizing shows at venues like Toronto’s The Smiling Buddha and The Garrison.

“We were pooling our resources to try to give each other a leg up, so if there was something one band had that another one didn’t, they were able to borrow that thing or use that connection,” said Circosta.

Circosta credits Humber with propelling the operation towards success.

“Humber was extremely supportive, even down to the music program itself, which gives us a lot of support when it comes to teaching you about the business side of music.”

It’s no coincidence that more than one of this year’s winners are music students, a program Circosta says breeds an entrepreneurial spirit largely out of necessity.

“Being a musician solely is a tough way to make money but there are other avenues to make money outside of that,” said Circosta.

Organizing shows was one way that a young Circosta realized he could make a little extra cash back in high school, although financial success is not the end objective of Headquarters Collective.

Circosta said the goal is to inspire change in the community.

“We’re trying to be a support system for bands where they can trust in our transparency,” he said. “The objective is to stimulate as much growth in this independent music sector as possible.”

Circosta ascribes HumberLaunch not only with giving students access to grants, but providing assistance in applying for them, from writing business plans to preparing pitches for the LaunchPad competition, where Headquarters earned an additional $3,000 earlier this month.

In addition to internal funding opportunities, HumberLaunch’s services range from networking events and budgeting assistance, to mentorship and a physical space on both the North and Lakeshore campuses where students can work.

Students also have access to one-hour free branding and legal sessions from outside partners.

Like many fellow Humber students, Bachelor of Music student Daniel Sykora is weeks from graduating. But unlike many, Sykora, a composer, arranger, and bassist, is already poised for success with his business creating original musical scores for film and video games, DSyk.Music.

Like Headquarters Collective, DSyk.Music has secured $10,000 from the New Venture Seed Fund. Sykora, 21, also added $4,000 to his business’ coffers, cash awarded in the LaunchPad competition.

Circosta and Sykora agree the process of transforming the idea of a business into a reality can be intimidating, especially building a business plan without a business background. But Circosta explained enthusiastically that going through the process of creating an exhaustive plan helped Headquarters harness their ideas.

“Our understanding of the business developed so much over the course of the months spent writing the plan that it was almost a very different business by the time it was written than it was in our heads when we first started,” said Circosta.

Sykora was daunted but determined.

“I said to myself ‘Ok, this is what I have to do, I’m going to do it somehow’,” he said. “Of course, I had no idea how to do any of it.”

Humber Business school instructor and entrepreneurship advocate Tony Gifford pointed out that most of the skills needed by entrepreneurs are not necessarily unique.

“An awful lot of it is about how you lead people, how you lead through teams, how you galvanize people around your vision, and make them a part of it,” said Gifford.

HumberLaunch program manager and business school faculty member Cheryl Mitchell emphasizes that students from all programs and pathways are welcome at HumberLaunch and encourages all budding entrepreneurs to take advantage of their services.