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article imageMillennials change the face of work Special

By Lai Mai Ng     Aug 3, 2011 in Business
Toronto - Young, smart and out of work, Robyn Brophy applied to 95 different jobs before she scored her first interview and job. For a part-time nanny position.
Brophy, 24 and a Bishop's University grad with a BA in sociology, is grateful for the work. But she also needs to hold down another part-time position to make ends meet.
"You get a little turned off when you get out of university with this great degree and you're so excited, and then you don't get hired," Brophy says. "It's very, very damaging to your confidence when you know you have a lot to offer and no one will let you offer it," she adds.
Brophy's story is not uncommon. According to Statistics Canada, youth unemployment hovers at 14.3 per cent, nearly double the national average of 7.4 per cent.
But Brophy is also a Millennial - a generation born from 1982 to 2002 commonly characterised as tech-savvy, adaptable, confident, self-expressive, optimistic and socially aware.
In the face of adversity, Millennials are finding new ways to generate meaningful work that aligns with their skills and values. And they're reaching out to their peers and to social media for help.
The Crowdfunder
Crowdfunding appeals to a diverse and decentralized group of online donors who fund a project through micropayments. Individuals pitch an idea, post it on a crowdfunding website and then kickstart a social media campaign to attract attention and potential investors.
Elaine Dalit, 24, is an office worker and community arts advocate who moonlights as a budding entrepreneur. She's developing a crowdfunding platform named FundBubble to help artists, entrepreneurs and social cause advocates independently finance their projects.
"It frustrates me to think that what I know to be great projects are stalled because their creators lack the financial capability to make it happen," says Dalit.
Unlike loans or grants that may only cover a portion of project costs, Dalit notes with crowdfunding, "You can also set the funding goal and raise the amount of money based on what you really need."
FundBubble is Dalit's first entrepreneurial venture and one that she hopes will showcase and support Canadian talent. By providing a communal space for creators to congregate, she also hopes FundBubble will encourage the general public to "play a more active role in supporting fellow Canadians."
The Social Entrepreneurs
But Millennials aren't only concerned about making money; they're also concerned about making a difference.
Project Wildfire is a new, Toronto-based incubator that helps young entrepreneurs age 19 to 29 build social businesses that are profitable, sustainable and also serve the greater good.
It differs from traditional incubators by running a social media contest for funding and support, while providing access to free workshops and online resources.
Project Wildfire motivated three young Toronto teachers, Dorothy Attakora, Kenisha Bynoe and Suzanne Narain to take a shot at turning their passion for travel and social justice into a social business called Global CIRCLE. The company plans to sell travel experiences to adults while allocating a portion of profits to subsidized skill-building trips for youths facing intersecting oppressions.
Robyn Brophy also entered the contest with her bid to open a bakery called The Nest that will train and employ adults with learning disabilities. She currently has the most watched video entry in the contest. Over 12,000 sets of eyeballs have seen Brophy's project, which means an equivalent number of potential customers for The Nest even if she doesn't win the seed money. And that's a powerful concept.
Although she would be thrilled to win the start-up funding, Brophy believes the learning experience has been the most valuable part of the Project Wildfire process.
"And I guess the blessing is that they really wort of taught me that, regardless of that, of how much business knowledge you have, you can always learn and it doesn't mean you can't set up a business," she says.
Narain from Global CIRCLE agrees. "Right from the very beginning, we've taken on the idea if nothing at all comes from this, our learning curve has been so high and we've gained so much and we've put our idea out there."
Brophy is a bundle of nerves and excitement. She's made it into the top 10.
On Aug. 4, she'll get five minutes to present her business model to the jury, Dragons' Den-style. It's her shot at winning $25,000 in investment capital, a free year of work space at the Centre for Social Innovation and, most importantly for her, a year-long business mentorship.
She's still young and smart, but if The Nest wins Project Wildfire's first social business incubator contest, she'll be employed, too. And as her own boss.
More about Youth, Entrepreneurship, crowdfunding, Unemployment, Social media
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