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Spotlight on alumni

Businesswoman and student — the two go hand in hand for Michelle Barbour. Recently, Ms. Barbour was named the 2012 Student Entrepreneur Regional Champion by the Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship (ACE) organization. She will now compete in the national competition at the 2012 ACE Exposition in Calgary, Alta., on May 9. Ms. Barbour spoke with Gazette contributor David Penney.

DP: Tell me about your business.
MB: Well, it's called Tutoring for Young Minds, and it's a French immersion tutoring business. We service K-12 French immersion students as well as university French students, and just this year expanded to offer a K-6 French immersion Easter Camp. Our next goal is to have two summer camps in August and our really big project for fall 2012 is the launch of a K-6 French immersion after school program.

DP: How did you get started?
MB: It wasn't a direct path that's for sure. I actually applied to do kinesiology at Memorial after high school. During that first year I also got a job working as a French immersion teaching assistant with the school board. I was already bilingual because I had done French immersion myself, and that job opened my eyes to how much I enjoyed teaching and using my French. I started doing some individual tutoring around the same time and I also made the switch to a French major. I completed that degree last year and I'm just finishing up the last few courses for my education degree now.
DP: What kind of response have you had from your students?
MB: It's been really great. I will tell you that one of the things I quickly learned about this business, particularly when dealing with K-12 students, is that your client is really the parent. So the students have to be learning and enjoying the process, but the parents need to be kept in the loop and made aware of our plan and goals. I'm very hands on and regular communication and dialogue with parents is a big part of my business model.

DP: Can you talk about the Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship (ACE) competition?
MB: It's really a chance for young entrepreneurs to further their own knowledge through competition. Most people are familiar with the team-based program that ACE delivers called Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), but I competed in the individual category. Basically you give a presentation outlining your business to a panel of judges, and this year I was the provincial winner – and then I went on to win the regional competition in Halifax. The next step is the national competition in May.

DP: How does it feel to be recognized in this way?
MB: It's been great and very exciting but the application process itself is one I'd recommend for any student entrepreneur. It forces you to identify goals and strategy for your business – so the process was worth doing even if I hadn't made it past the provincial competition level. Memorial's Students In Free Enterprise team has been extremely supportive throughout the ACE Entrepreneur Competition. They are a fantastic group of students who are genuinely focused on helping others.

To learn more about Tutoring for Young Minds, including details about K-12 tutoring sessions, the French immersion after school program and French 1500/01 final review university sessions, visit www.frenchforlife.com.

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