Transforming entrepreneurial education

A $5.5-million investment from the Pierre L. Morrissette Family Foundation will provide campus-wide access to entrepreneurial research, education and programming at Western

Photo: Pierre L. Morrissette (photo by Geoff Robins)

WESTERN STUDENTS IN every faculty can now benefit from entrepreneurial support and education thanks to a gift of $5.5 million from the Pierre L. Morrissette Family Foundation.

The gift brings two decades of entrepreneurship research, education and programming created at Ivey Business School to students in all disciplines, and to entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey. The Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship will create a single ecosystem, leadership structure and brand across campus ― all under the guidance of a consolidated advisory board.

“Entrepreneurship has been very successful at Ivey,” says Pierre Morrissette, executive chairman of Pelmorex Corp. and a graduate of the Ivey Business School. “Now we’re going to take that energy and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship across all faculties, providing an opportunity for students in engineering, in health sciences, in music, to create businesses, to commercialize knowledge and to convert that energy into realizable success.”

Western is increasing its contribution to entrepreneurship by $2.5 million, bringing the total new investment to $8 million. Western’s investment will support the Morrissette Chair in Entrepreneurship, which will develop and integrate innovative research, programming and education activities across campus. 

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The Morrissette Institute gives students more options to enhance their Western experience, adds Western president, Alan Shepard. 

“Providing opportunities for all our students to develop their entrepreneurial skills, regardless of their academic discipline, is a priority for Western,” Shepard says. “This investment builds our capacity to offer an entrepreneurial experience for any student who wants one. We are deeply grateful for Pierre’s vision and generosity — he is a terrific champion for Ivey, Western and Canada.”

The gift brings Morrissette’s cumulative giving for entrepreneurship at Western to more than $10 million. Morrissette has also been an avid supporter of entrepreneurship by giving his time, expertise and mentorship to both Ivey and Western. He has served as chair of the Ivey Advisory Board and was a founding co-chair of the Western Entrepreneurship Board. 

“Entrepreneurship is tough. The journey is tough. Few people make it, yet it represents 50 per cent of the Canadian economy ― from mom-and-pop shops to very large companies. So, when you combine those two things, there’s a great need to support and create more successful entrepreneurs” ―Pierre Morrissette

Dean Sharon Hodgson attributed Ivey’s entrepreneurial success to Morrissette’s vision and support. 

“Pierre’s long-standing relationship with entrepreneurship at Ivey, both personally and financially, has been the foundation of its success,” she says. “Now his vision for taking that success across campus will result in even greater opportunities for all Western students through open access to entrepreneurial programming, knowledge and support. I am delighted to see the good work at Ivey being leveraged in this way. This is a model for interdisciplinary engagement that we hope to see flourish in the coming years.”

Eric Morse, executive director of the Morrissette Institute, says many university-based programs focus primarily on start-ups.

“What sets us apart is that we’re focused on more than just the start-up,” says Morse. “We help entrepreneurs grow and achieve their goals at every stage of their entrepreneurship journey, however they define success.”

Morse said with more students building social and environmental enterprises, the Institute will provide a suite of specific programming for these organizations, and for family businesses, early-, mid- and late-stage businesses, and high-growth companies that create jobs and innovation in Canada.

Simone Godbout and her team created Marlow, the first lubricated tampon kit delivered directly to consumers on a subscription basis. She says this gift will give students from other faculties access to resources and enable them to bring unique perspectives to societal problems. 

Transforming entrepreneurial education Morrissette Family Foundation EntrepreneurshipPhoto: Gurveer Bahia and Sucheta Kurana, Western kinesiology students and founders of Arise N’ Go

“It’s been so beneficial to have conversations with peers in other faculties because they have such a different lens on our business,” says Godbout. “Their ideas and perspectives have helped us identify new opportunities, and it’s awesome that we can create more of these conversations through this gift.”

Kinesiology student entrepreneurs Sucheta Khurana and Gurveer Bahia, who together developed Arise N’ Go, a healthy snack made from popped water-lily seeds, see the Morrissette Institute as an opportunity for students to bring their entrepreneurial dreams to life.

“The Western entrepreneurship ecosystem was critical for our business. We were supported with resources, guidance and funding opportunities from the beginning,” says Khurana. “This gift will help students like us grow as entrepreneurs at every stage of the journey.” 

As a long-time donor and champion of both Ivey and Western, Morrissette has consistently advocated for the importance of entrepreneurship education in Canada. 

“When you look at what’s required to start a business, the intangible skills, such as risk tolerance and tenacity ― those skills you’re born with. But the skills required to turn an idea into a business, those can and must be taught,” Morrissette says.

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Supporting entrepreneurs ultimately contributes to the success of the Canadian economy, he adds. 

“Entrepreneurship is tough. The journey is tough. Few people make it, yet it represents 50 per cent of the Canadian economy ― from mom-and-pop shops to very large companies. So, when you combine those two things, there’s a great need to support and create more successful entrepreneurs.

“By creating the ecosystem that involves students, academics and alumni, we will become the go-to university for entrepreneurship anywhere. That is the ultimate endgame.” Transforming entrepreneurial education Morrissette Family Foundation Entrepreneurship Story by Cam Buchan, courtesy of Western University

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