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September 11, 2020 1:02 PM

Gig Lab celebrates first cohort

Freelance entrepreneurs showcased their new ventures through an online event hosted by Conestoga’s Gig Lab on August 18. The cohort was the first from the new freelancer business incubator program piloted through the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective (CEC) this summer.  

Conestoga College_Spring 2020 Gig Lab.jpg
Eighteen freelance entrepreneurs showcased their new ventures through an online event celebrating the college’s first Gig Lab cohort.

The first of its kind in Canada, the Gig Lab is specifically tailored to address the business model nuances and needs of the growing number of freelance entrepreneurs. The 15-week program is designed to equip new and early-stage freelancers with the skills, mindsets and tools to flourish in a free market system, dubbed the gig economy.

“The Gig Lab was born out of the collision of two elements,” said Rose Mastnak, director, Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective. “The rising prevalence of the gig economy and its importance to the future of work, as well as the desire to serve student entrepreneurs that came to us through other CEC programs wanting to start service-based businesses. We didn’t have an existing vehicle to support freelancers with specific coaching and direction to build successful, sustainable businesses.”

The program, open to Conestoga students and recent graduates, features one-on-one coaching with seasoned freelancers, weekly instructional sessions and access to a network of industry mentors to help build the foundations of a sustainable freelance business. In its first term, the Gig Lab welcomed 18 participants from various backgrounds across the college. The showcase event was a culminating component of their work and provided an opportunity to connect with industry as freelancers pitched services that included graphic design, software development, video production, podcasting and marketing.

Among the freelancers were Business Administration - Marketing graduate Cristina Gomes Freire and Bachelor of Public Relations student Samantha Nemec, who used her co-op term to build her business, ClearSight Collaborative Copywriting.

“I have been freelancing since early 2018 and have always been interested in launching my own consulting agency,” said Nemec. “I was referred to the Gig Lab by my co-op advisor and I realized the opportunity was perfect for me. I was able to create the foundation and framework for my business while building skills and confidence as an entrepreneur and young professional.”

Nemec’s focus is on collaborative copywriting, taking her expertise and blending into her clients’ existing teams to help get messages across effectively while staying loyal to brand and voice. Working with her Gig Lab coach, Nemec strengthened her business outline and sales strategy and was able to build her network of clients.

For Gomes Freire, the Gig Lab provided an opportunity for a fresh start. After graduating from Conestoga, she worked as a marketing manager for a local company before deciding she wanted to establish her own freelance business.

“It was amazing for me to be able to validate my strategy and have a mentor that could tell me whether or not I was on the right path,” said Gomes Freire. “Even though I had all of the technical skills I needed to provide a service, I needed to enhance skills like sales, relationship building and finance. The Gig Lab helped me think strategically about the longevity of my business and gave me the tools I need to be successful.”

Supporting startups, small businesses and immigrant entrepreneurs, 2dBrief designs flexible and sharp marketing programs to help build long-lasting relationships with audiences. Originally from Brazil, Gomes Freire wanted to focus on providing services to help those facing similar challenges to hers, whether that is being in the early stages of their business or starting over in a new country. Like Nemec, Gomes Freire has already begun to take on clients and build prospects.

 “Starting a business from the ground-up is hard, but doing so while having a network of professionals supporting you along the way makes it easier,” Nemec continued. “Having someone to run your ideas by and having a team behind you giving you feedback along your journey helps to yield incredible results, and eventually, a strong business strategy that will take you places.”

Visit the freelancer showcase online to browse spring 2020 cohort profiles. Applications for the winter 2021 Gig Lab cohort will open in November.

The Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective is a network of faculty, coaches, mentors, entrepreneurs, community leaders and organizations committed to supporting the entrepreneurial potential within the college community. CEC provides a variety of services that include business incubation in the Venture Lab, experiential education co-ops and interactive workshops.

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