“I’d love to start a business, but I just don’t know what I would do.”

-Budding entrepreneur

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It’s not uncommon to hear someone say they would like to start a business or launch a product into the market, but they can’t quite seem to nail down which idea they would like to pursue. They are attracted to what they think entrepreneurship is, what it can offer them in the way of lifestyle and freedom, and they tend to picture themselves at a point after launch where things are smooth sailing.

What some budding entrepreneurs fail to visualize is the ideation stage, the product testing, the market fit: they forget to imagine the work that goes into launching a company. After all, aren’t we told to imagine ourselves succeeding and we will? Or some other self-fulfilling prophecy crap which leaves out the hard work and dedication part?

One of the hardest parts of launching a business is choosing a good idea. Hard work on the front end of your business launch can pay off, but only if you have a good idea. There are a number of ways to go about finding a business product or service you can turn into a profitable business. Here’s five ways to get your brain moving and shaking so that you can get on with it already!

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Get outside and take a walk. Look around your community and ask yourself what problems do these people experience on a daily or weekly basis? Is there a product or service that could help people in your community live a more organized, wealthy, healthy, or fun life? Plus, a nice walk will help you clear your head and exercise is good for the heart.

After your walk, find a spot under a tree and scan your smartphone: what do you look for in an app that isn’t already out there – sure, there are literally bazillions of apps – but we’re still early in the age of app life and there’s probably something you can do to improve or combine services. The smartphone is, afterall, just a backpack filled with anything you’d ever need tucked neatly into your pocket. How can you improve that even more? Is there an organization in your community that isn’t on the tech bandwagon yet? Could you reach out to them to talk about joining forces?

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Take a look around your office or work site. What’s happening on a day to day basis that makes you nuts? Seriously – every workplace needs to improve at least one area of their operation. Is there something you can create that would solve that problem?

When lunch time rolls around, head to the local food court at the mall. Do some people watching: you’ll see moms and babies, teenagers, dads and sons, elderly folk – everyone goes to the mall. The food court offers you several perspectives: what are people eating? Where are the longest lines? Why are people willing to wait in line for one meal over another? Which restaurant has no one standing in it? Try to answer the question why is no one at that restaurant – is there something there you can do?

After work, when dinner is on the table, ask your family about their ideas. What do they imagine or dream about? What do they wish was better in their own lives? Ask your friends about their ideas – maybe one of them would be interested in forming a business with you. Noone said you had to do this alone!

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Did you spot the theme in these five suggestions? It’s problem solving. The best business ideas solve a problem for someone – maybe even a problem they didn’t know they had. But the ringers are the business ideas that solve a problem that has been shared amongst many and the more you can identify that problem in your community or workplace, the more likely you are to hit a homer with your launch.

In a world gone tech, online schools are continuing to pop up and everyone now has an opportunity to teach you what they know. You don’t need to leave the comfort of your home and can fit online learning into your probably already-crazy-busy-schedule… so why does UIT Startup Immersion insist on running a brick and mortar tech school?

While everyone else is taking their learning to the web, we’re rocking an in-person classroom experience where our students can get faster-than-the-internet instant support and mentoring with some badass developers and business personalities who are running real tech companies. Not only do our students get to learn code and business skills, they get to learn them from people who are dealing with current business and coding changes, problems and opportunities in real time.

What’s more, UIT Startup Immersion is a startup. Our product is our students. Our students can tailor the curriculum to their business ideas or career aspirations: no two products are ever the same. Sure, you can launch a business in your basement, and a good percentage of the internet is dedicated to teaching others how to make money on the internet. At UIT, students learn how to learn. You don’t just ingest a bunch of information; you engage with it, and in turn help create the content for another generation of tech gurus who will learn about your efforts and accomplishments in the coming years.

Yup, lots of online schools talk about how their content is engaging, but what those institutions are not offering is the opportunity to live and work in a startup ecosystem, where actual problems are being solved by UIT students and our rapidly expanding tech sector. You can go it alone, or you can get in on the action and learn everything you need to launch your own startup or land a job in the tech sector.

Our location and actual classroom environment makes us unique in a world racing to the internet to learn. We aren’t going to do the work for you: no ma’am. It’s going to be intense, but we can show you how to accomplish what you want and teach you the skills you need to get to where you want to be.

Ahhhh there it is… the promise every school in every community –  whether online or in real life –  makes: you will learn new skills. You definitely want to learn skills in school, but you don’t want to waste your time learning task-oriented skills. You want to be learning skills like problem identification, brainstorming, product based solutions, roll out, analysis, launching and follow up — all resting on the back of an epic coding education. A well-rounded, in person, tech ecosystem education: that’s UIT.

You’ll always learn more by listening to a incredible story of ups and downs, wins and losses, and challenges and solutions than you will reading case studies in a textbook. Check out what experiential learning is all about at UIT!

“There is nothing more exhilarating than working on a problem for a while and then figuring out the solution!” – Rachael MacKeigan, UIT Startup Immersion Graduate

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It’s no secret that the tech industry is predominantly men, but there are lots of women rocking the industry in their own way and blazing a trail doing it! In this three part blog series, we’ll feature three women who have come into the tech industry and made a name for themselves in a relatively short period of time.

Rachael MacKeigan has always been interested in technology – volunteering her time with robotics clubs and building websites for non-profit organizations – but she didn’t think she had the time to immerse herself fully to learn coding. She knew there were jobs in Cape Breton for techies and so she decided it was time to learn what she needed to learn to make coding more than a hobby.

Working in marketing and communications for the Nova Scotia Community Access Program, she saw first hand the benefits of giving people access to technology related training. She enrolled in UIT Startup Immersion in September of 2015 and knew she could use this time to buckle down and learn as much as she could to land a job in a startup. “I really needed to immerse myself in coding and build on the fundamentals. I also really needed someone I could go to with questions.” She knew that literally immersing herself in the coding world would be what she needed to succeed, and having the support of the UIT success coaches and mentors was the icing on the cake.

When we asked her what the hardest part of coding has been she admits that “the hardest part has been feeling like you don’t know enough, or aren’t good enough…but they [those feelings] become less and less prominent the more I learn and talk to people in the industry.” She goes on to remark that “Cape Breton is building a really supportive atmosphere, so I feel very lucky to be a part of that community.”

Rachel took a junior developer position with Layers, Inc. as soon as she graduated from UIT Startup Immersion and she hopes to either launch her own company or continue working for an established company right here in Cape Breton. She hopes to be able to mentor other women in the industry and she comments, “I would like to see more women developers. I’ve encountered nothing but support and encouragement so far in my career, but women developers in our local community are few and far between.”

UIT recognizes the need to encourage women to get into tech, especially in Cape Breton, and offers the UIT Women in Technology Bursary to make it easier for women to break into the industry. Rachael says, “We need you! I let doubt creep in for many years before deciding to make this change and it has been going great so far. We need new ideas and new perspectives so if you’re interested, jump in!”

When she isn’t working on a mobile app product, winning prizes at local hackathons, or spending time with her dog, Rachael likes to swim, bake and play trains with her niece and nephew! She admits to having an obsessive problem with painting furniture white, and she dreams of making tech and robotics programs more robust for kids in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

If you run into Rachael, give her a high five for going after what she wanted – she’s pretty cool.

In this three part blog series, we’ll showcase some of the highlights from the upcoming Intersect project launching in the startup community in Cape Breton in 2016. This three-year collaborative effort will identify opportunities for the digital sector to work with traditional sectors in order to bring about change and create new relationships to strengthen the economy of Cape Breton. Sounds fun, right? It is going to be awesome!

In this part of the blog series, we’ll talk about the idea for Intersect and how it is unfolding in preparation to launch. You have probably heard about the Sea++ competition Louisbourg Seafoods Ltd. that launched in January 2016? Well, it was a super successful community event where Louisbourg Seafoods Ltd. asked members of the community to try and solve some of their internal operating, budget and harvesting problems. Now imagine if other sectors, such as forestry, arts and culture, engineering and tourism, joined forces with community members to solve their problems? Enter Intersect: we’re going to bring these people together!

Based in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Intersect would be coordinated through UIT, in conjunction with The Prosperity Framework, ACOA and Cape Breton University, as well as other Cape Breton based organizations. Twelve sectors have been identified that UIT will work with to coordinate community competitions bringing digital and traditional organizations together.

And there will be prize money. “What’s that you say? I can help solve a problem in my community and I can win money for my ideas?” You bet! We’re working on sourcing some prize funds to be able to give out some great prizes and help people kickstart their ideas into overdrive!

Intersect is set to launch in the fall of 2016 and it’s shaping up to be a pretty big deal. Cape Breton today… the world tomorrow!