Gateway West paints brighter future for entrepreneur
By Pamela Gill
Alex LeRiche in his studio in Port aux Basques
Alex LeRiche had it all going for him.
An electrical engineering technologist, the Port aux Basques native was at the cutting edge of his field back in 1980. His last contract had brought him all the way to the Arctic, where he was involved in the monitoring of icebergs using sonar, infrared and radar technologies.
And that’s when Mr. LeRiche got hit by an iceberg of a much greater magnitude an aneurysm that paralyzed the entire right side of his body.
Not one to give up, he worked hard at his rehabilitation and eventually was able to teach swimming lessons in St. John’s. Not an easy task for someone with little movement on one side.
That battle won, Mr. LeRiche realized there was something missing.
“There always seemed to be something missed from my life,” he said. “I was always artistic I always enjoyed drawing and sketching so I decided to try my hand at it.”
His left hand, at that. He enrolled in the visual arts program at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville. Since graduating, he has mastered using his left hand painting portraits, scenery and anything with a Newfoundland theme such as dories, icebergs, puffins and gulls.
Recently he’s realized that he has a knack for teaching as well.
“I took the skills I had when I was a swimming instructor and applied them to instructing art,” he said. But teaching painting is an expensive business. Mr. LeRiche realized he would need financing for easels, paints, brushes, drawing paper, canvases, and more.
That’s where Grenfell College’s Gateway West came in. Gateway West is a three-year enterprise and entrepreneurship pilot project at Memorial University’s Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. The project aims to put potential entrepreneurs in touch with the many resources available to them that might otherwise go untapped by inexperienced up-and-coming business people. Partnering with Sir Wilfred Grenfell College and ACOA in support of Gateway West are the John Dobson Foundation of Montreal and the Humber Valley Resort Corporation.
Mike Jackson, director of Gateway West, met with Mr. LeRiche to discuss financing opportunities as well as a business plan.
“We saw the potential in Mr. LeRiche’s business plans,” said Mr. Jackson. “We were able to help him develop his plan, as well as put him in touch with funding agencies to make his dream a reality.”
Mr. LeRiche’s gallery, called the Sou’ Wester Studio, operates in Port aux Basques during the tourist season for the most part. While it is closed for winter months, it will reopen in April. While he hasn’t begun teaching classes to this point, he hopes it will become a reality in the future. To contact Mr. LeRiche about his artwork, call 694-0167 or 695-7261.
“I’m hoping to go far with it the world is open to me,” said Mr. LeRiche. “I’m testing the waters right now, but I’m probably going to go deeper and deeper.”
Combing the campus for new ideas
Since 2001, members of Memorial’s Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Gateway (Gateway) have helped students, staff, faculty and alumni explore new business opportunities, establish 25 new companies and create 70 new jobs. In total, the Gateway’s venture coaches have met with over 500 clients from across the university and they’re looking to meet even more.
At the beginning of each semester, Gateway staff look for opportunities to meet with students and make them aware of the centre’s business counselling services. “If you’ve ever considered how a project or idea might be turned into a commercial venture then the Gateway should be your starting point,” said Shari Costello, associate director. “It’s often difficult to decide what you need to bring your business idea to life; we bring together expertise and resources from around the university and provide one-stop shopping, so to speak, for potential clients.”
The Gateway’s partners include the faculties of Business Administration and Engineering and Applied Science, the Inco Innovation Centre, the Genesis Centre, and the National Research Council’s Institute of Ocean Technology. The Gateway model has also been replicated at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College as Gateway West. Each partner works with promising entrepreneurs to provide them with the technical, business management and mentorship support to launch successful businesses and to create the most enabling environment for entrepreneurship in an academic setting.
In addition to the main office in the P. J. Gardiner Institute on the fourth floor of the Business Administration Building, the Gateway has also established a satellite office in the University Centre. For more information about the Gateway’s hours of operation, location, or how to start up your own business, please contact 737-8855 or visit www.business.mun.ca/gateway.