SFU’s Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship partners with PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs to inspire future innovators

May 09, 2023
Young entrepreneurs showcase their products at a Young Entrepreneurs Show, where they earn real money and donate a portion of their profits.

Making the most of problem-solving opportunities in a rapidly changing world is a hallmark of the entrepreneurial mindset—one that Simon Fraser University’s Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship is helping to cultivate. Through the Chang Institute’s partnership with PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs, young innovators are planting seeds to success.

"We are born with the entrepreneurial mindset, but traditional schooling will often defer us from keeping it,” says SFU’s Director of Entrepreneurship Sarah Lubik. “While traditional learning promotes growth in knowledge through standardized testing and graded projects, it doesn’t necessarily teach us to be creative or resilient.”

PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs was created by BC entrepreneur Bill Roche in 1999 to offer curriculum-based entrepreneurship resources for BC school districts. In 2017 Roche met Vega founder and SFU alumnus Charles Chang (BBA ‘95), finding an immediate connection over their common drive to create positive social change through early entrepreneurship education.

Together, Roche and Chang founded a registered Canadian charity that now operates under the name PowerPlay Young Entrepreneurs, to create a nationwide educational movement celebrating and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in young people.

“Every Powerplay student creates their own business venture, from ideation and product development to marketing and sales,” says Bill Roche. “They use design thinking to transform their ideas into marketable products—from new designs such as fidget spinners and dog toys, to customized wood signs. They later showcase their achievements at a Young Entrepreneurs Show in their respective schools, where they earn real money and donate a portion of their profits.”

Since 1999, PowerPlay has engaged 120,000 students in school districts from Surrey, British Columbia to Moncton, New Brunswick. SFU research shows that PowerPlay students demonstrate an 11% increase in growth mindset after completing the program. This means that they are more likely to take risks with their learning and they see an expanded view of their own potential.

The PowerPlay approach aligns well with that of SFU’s Chang Institute, which was founded through a generous $10M gift to SFU by Charles and Eve Chang, and the two organizations have been collaborating on research and programming since 2017 to nurture and grow the entrepreneurial mindset.

This year, the Chang Institute and PowerPlay have significantly increased the opportunities for young students to celebrate their achievements and network with SFU mentors on-campus. In these events, students are given the opportunities to connect with participants and alumni from SFU’s Coast Capital Venture Connection startup incubator, and other Chang Institute programs, to learn more about the importance of entrepreneurship through different points of view.

Recent activities on SFU campuses include PowerPlay alumni participating in a public #MadeBySFU marketplace, a PowerPlay showcase highlighting students from participating local school districts, and an all-day PowerPlay Young Indigenous Leaders workshop exploring entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership from an Indigenous perspective.

Lubik says it’s important to invest in building young entrepreneurs’ self-efficacy and resilience all the way to university. “Inter-generational mentoring between the Chang Institute and PowerPlay students is proving to be an integral and mutually beneficial approach,” she says.

“Being a part of a supportive community is huge in creating the entrepreneurial mindset. PowerPlay students are inspired by the innovation that takes place at a university level, while Chang Institute students surround themselves with younger students’ unbridled curiosity and creativity.”

Roche agrees. "We see this partnership as being a winning arrangement and we are seeing the entrepreneurial mindset become more firmly rooted on both sides. Perhaps the greatest impact is that the PowerPlay young entrepreneurs see that there is a pathway to continue exploring and developing entrepreneurial thinking.”