Small but mighty: Enactus team from St. Thomas University ready for competition

Posted on February 29, 2024 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments


An Enactus St. Thomas University meeting. (Submitted photo)


They don’t come from the biggest school by footprint or population, but the Enactus team at St. Thomas University (STU) has shared some recent successes with Atlantic Business Magazine. The small-yet-mighty group are expecting to more than hold their own at the Enactus regional competition in Halifax this week.

Enactus is an international organization encouraging post-secondary students to learn about entrepreneurship and its ability to bring about positive change in their communities. The organization issues grants, enabling students test their product and service ideas in the real world. Students then present their efforts and defend their projects in competition.

In some cases over the years, schools have seen significant for-profit enterprises emerge from the contest. The STU team opted to focus on a collection of services to community, developing a project about public skills development and ultimately community empowerment.

“STU’s a pretty small school and so our pool of resources is generally a bit smaller than other schools,” said Elllie Namit, a third-year student in their second year with the Enactus association. “Sometimes we see the projects other schools are doing that are massive and it’s like they started a corporation while we don’t even have a building where we could have put that on St. Thomas’ campus because it’s so small. They’re processing massive amounts of apples,” they said, as a theoretical example, “and where would we do that?”


An Enactus St. Thomas University team member holds up a university pennant at the regional competition in 2023. (Submitted photo)


In New Brunswick since 1910, STU has roughly 1,600 to 1,800 students, mainly undergraduates. That’s a fraction of the more than 10,000 students enrolled with the University of New Brunswick, or the 20,000-plus student population at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

Tucked away beside the UNB campus on College Hill in Fredericton, STU is known for its focused Liberal Arts programming, with alums including former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and former Premier Shawn Graham. More than just politically, its reach has been greater than pure enrollment numbers suggest.

The physical scale of STU and lower student cap was actually a draw for many of the current Enactus team members. But tied to the more intimate setting, the Enactus team had to be ready to look beyond their classroom and campus walls to establish and execute their projects. And they had to hustle to secure space on campus, volunteers for events and other resources – all of which offered their own lessons.

“(Even) if we don’t have quite as much reach as other (university team) projects in larger cities might have, the community is very tight knit in Fredericton. So if you don’t know somebody, you can ask them and they’ll connect you with somebody who does,” Namit said.

Enactus STU was runner up in last year’s regional event with “Spring Up,” a student-led initiative spreading awareness about environmental issues and take action within Fredericton. The current “Spark” project brings together elements of other past programs of the club. “Incubatorly” was a team project focused entirely on supports for local entrepreneurs. “Connecto,” a project focused on the promotion of financial literacy, using workshops led by volunteers to help students understand their personal budget, better manage money and plan for their financial future. It also ventured into things like scholarship application advice and the art of the interview. Spark brings elements of these latter two together, with public educational events and things specific to entrepreneurs.


Enactus STU “Spark” team members Kate Hache (left) and Ellie Namit. Namit is also the project lead. (Submitted photo)


“We just thought that those two projects worked really well together, that all of the things they were doing could really overlap and a lot of events they were holding. Impact wise, it just made sense to have the teams come together and have one project we could focus on,” Namit said.

It’s not the same path as developing a product for sale. And it offered some unique lessons in entrepreneurship, including from entrepreneurs both on and off campus taking part in offered programming.

“The fact we’re taking the resources we have available to support these people in our community (…) We may not compete in the magnitude of projects, but with what we have we’re having amazing outcomes and helping the community as well. So that’s amazing,” said Daniel Calvo, a fourth-year student in his second year with Enactus STU.

Multiple team members came to university with an interest in entrepreneurship, in part from time spent with the Junior Achievement program in high school. They all came to discover Enactus by different routes, through ads and information sessions. Business majors are actually in the minority at Enactus STU.


Enactus Canada partner representatives chats with a interact with students at every regional event. (Submitted photo)


Kate Hache is a second-year student interested in international development. “Part of that is working with Finance and working with how to help people become better with their finances and how to improve policies on Finance,” she said, describing how she was drawn in by the work around financial literacy. She said one workshop on grocery budgeting in particular, with food security tips that could be shared by participants with other students, especially those living off campus, will likely stick with her into the future.

“Just seeing students I had never met before come to our event and just recognizing there’s some kind of mutual recognition between us… saying you want to get involved, I want to get involved and we’re doing this to make our community a better place,” she said.

Third-year student Ameri Suzuki is an international student inspired by interactions with entrepreneurs throughout Fredericton. She plans to take some ideas from her time with Enactus STU and apply them when she makes a planned return to Japan. As for what might be a main takeaway? “I want to tell people entrepreneurship is for everyone,” Suzuki said.

Fourth-year student Charles Hanscomb recalled the hours put in last year and readying the presentation for what was a near-win at the regional contest. “And to see the results of it was really gratifying and something that I’ll take away as a great experience,” he said.


The Enactus St. Thomas University team at the regional competition in Halifax in 2023. (Submitted photo)


Over 300 people are expected to attend the Enactus regional competition event this week. The attendees will be team members but also representatives from Enactus sponsors and professional partners.

The event is, “a shared celebration of collective achievements, innovation, and the power of collaboration,” said Enactus Canada president and CEO Catherine Fowler, in a statement.

“This event provides academic, business and social entrepreneurial leaders an amazing opportunity to meet and connect with the next generation of socially conscious leaders from Atlantic Canada. And we are so proud to bring them all together,” she said.

In addition to prize money, winners of the regional event will have the chance to represent their school in the national stage of competition, scheduled to take place in Toronto in May. National-level winners may go on to international competition. A team from Wilfrid Laurier University was chosen to represent Canada in international competition last year, presenting in the final round at an event held in Utrecht, Netherlands. Egypt came out the international winner, but it did mark the 8th year in a row a Canadian team made the international final round.

CORRECTION – An earlier version of this story misidentified the project Enactus STU was named runner-up for in regional competition in 2023 as “Connecto.” The project was, as now correctly stated, titled “Spring Up.”

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