Markham teen’s passion for art evolves into business venture

Jennifer McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

York Region is helping students turn their skills and hobbies into money-making ventures.

For over a decade, in partnership with the Government of Ontario, the York Small Business Enterprise Centre (YSBEC) has been delivering the Summer Company program.

The program is designed to foster and develop the entrepreneurial spirit among youth by “guiding them through the entire process of starting a business,” says Charles Banfield, manager of strategic economic initiatives for York Region.

Students between the ages of 15 and 29 registered to return to school full-time the following September are eligible to apply.

The program “helps students learn critical skills such as financial management, networking, and creating a detailed business plan,” he adds.

It offers training, mentoring, and a grant of up to $3,000 to support the students in maximizing the success of their business concepts.

Markham resident Amanda Lum, 17, owner of the Smol Art by AL Shop, is one of nine participants in this year’s Summer Company program.

In internet slang terms, “smol” is an affectionate way of referring to someone or something small in size. Lum creates art products and other stationary items depicting cute animal characters.

“I was inspired by my fellow art friends on social media to open up an art product shop so that I would be able to physically share my art with a larger audience,” said Lum.

She credits the Summer Company program for offering financial support and other resources necessary to run a business successfully.

“Í have learned a lot of useful information about how to successfully run a business, how to manage money and how to have confidence in my ideas,” she added.

“Overall, this program has helped me hone skills that are transferable to many different environments while giving me the opportunity to start a business that I am truly passionate about.”

Lum will be attending the University of Waterloo this September.

YSBEC is a “one-stop shop” to help individuals start and grow their businesses.

The centre offers training, business plan development, mentoring, and advisory services to help businesses and their owners succeed.

Whether starting out or looking to grow an existing venture, the YSBEC is available to provide the necessary tools.

YSBEC’s Summer Company program will return in 2023, with applications opening early next year.

Visit for information.

The Markham Small Business Enterprise Centre also partners with the Government of Ontario to offer the Summer Company program. Visit for information.

Visit to look at past Summer Company participants throughout Ontario and their business ventures.


Photo: Amanda Lum turned her love of art into a business, Smol Art by AL Shop, thanks to support from the Summer Company program at YSBEC. (credit: York Region)


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