If you are a youth in Sault Ste. Marie, you have undoubtedly heard (or maybe even uttered) the notion, “There’s nothing to do in the Sault.” According to the City’s website, the proposed Downtown Plaza will be a community hub, offering a skating rink, an event space, an outdoor stage, a play zone and, notably, a market area. Another notion circulating on the list of things that people have to say about the Sault is the encouragement of entrepreneurship, particularly among youth. So, what if we combined these two utterances and channeled our thoughts and energy to solve two issues?
While some have frowned upon the plaza development, perhaps, like a Field of Dreams, we need to embrace the philosophy that, “If we build it, they will come!” The plaza has the potential to not only become a community hub, but a youth hub, where youth can engage in exercise, various events, a vibrant space and yes, even a market that embraces their entrepreneurial spirit. Our community is home to some very creative and entrepreneurial youth. Stories abound in the news about youth creating products and services and several of them are making a mark with their small businesses and products– jewelry, pottery, woods crafts, pillows, clothing printing and even bath soaps. The “shop local” mantra has become popular and many are seeking to spend their money locally.
Additionally, many students take courses in high school and produce beautiful wood products. One local school board is creating a secondary school focused on the Trades and Technology, which could provide a whole new world of opportunities for students to demonstrate their innovation and creativity through creating products. Wouldn’t it be incredible to have a youth area at the downtown plaza where youth could come to showcase and sell their products?
To promote the idea, perhaps the city could waive any fees for youth, to support their entrepreneurial endeavours.
The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre supports entrepreneurs of all ages through various workshops and by offering mentorship opportunities and access to funding programs. The
Innovation Accelerator Program provides funding to support small projects with the development and commercialization of new innovations (i.e. service, product or process). Eligible activities range from product testing/development, feasibility analysis, sales training, website enhancements and even branding development. Our team is always willing to discuss how we can help entrepreneurs start or grow their business.
As a youth living in this community, I see a world of opportunities that the Downtown Plaza could bring, including the idea that the market could become a learning space. Perhaps other local entrepreneurs could use the market space to offer classes for youth and/or the community, such that the space becomes a place to offer classes or to engage community members in “make and take” workshops. The possibilities are endless for this newly proposed space and I for one, believe that youth entrepreneurship opportunities should be a part of this market space. So, Sault Ste. Marie youth, what do you want to create, learn, sell, or teach?