And On the Side, I Run a Business

Savvy entrepreneurs like Udara Jay are jumping into business while still in school. How do they manage both?

Photo: Udara Jay

FROM CAMPUS-LINKED ACCELERATORS like Propel at Western University and Leap Junction at Fanshawe College to entrepreneurship programs, clubs and other activities, area students interested in starting businesses have more resources available than ever before.

Nonetheless, entrepreneurship still takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears in order to build something out of nothing, so how do students manage that level of commitment while juggling classes, assignments and exams at the same time?

Jay knows all about this, both from the perspective of a Western University student and through his business—an open-source, self-learning web platform called Alcamy.

“We essentially built an education tool that’s ­targeted towards self-learners. It’s a mix of something like Wikipedia, Reddit and Coursera put together,” he explains.

“Traditionally, online courses are put together by ­instructors, but we wanted to put a different spin on it by essentially having self-learners and people who know what they’re talking about compile resources that already exist online and compile it into a course.”

“You have to make sacrifices sometimes, a mark here, a mark there, but you can always make it work and juggle everything if you like what you’re doing” —Udara Jay

“It’s all open and free—people can edit it just like Wikipedia. And then people vote, just like on Reddit, so the best content always goes to the top,” says Jay. “It has the Coursera vibe in that someone can follow through ­something and see how much progress they’ve made.”

Like many young entrepreneurs, Jay never intended this to be his path. “I taught myself to program from a very young age, around 13, and have always been a consistent self-learner. People always question me and ask if I’m going to Ivey or doing something business-related, but I just like self-learning and wanted to build a tool for self-learners.”

So how does one juggle the perils and stresses of school with the perils and stresses of entrepreneurship? “I think it always comes down to really liking what you do, because then you always make the time,” says Jay. “I like creating things, I like building things and sharing them with people, and seeing the uses other people find for the things I create. So I never see it as a chore, something that I have to sacrifice for.”

But there are always choices to be made. Jay recalls ­working on an Alcamy update late into the night and having to skip an assignment question due at the same time. “You have to make sacrifices sometimes, a mark here, a mark there, but you can always make it work and juggle ­everything if you like what you’re doing.”

Alcamy continues to grow, and Jay has ambitious goals for it. “If you want to touch up on some skills, Alcamy would be the ideal tool to learn something new,” he says. “In the future, we hope to run alongside higher education. Our
ultimate goal is for somebody to learn something off Alcamy and just get hired based off of that.”