Young entrepreneurs launch new summer businesses in Windsor-Essex

Summer Company 2021 program participants in downtown Windsor

The Summer Company program helps turn ambitious students into entrepreneurs.

Alexandrea Coombe is a Grade 11 student a St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School and owner of StitchNRide, a McGregor-based business offering unique, handmade equestrian products. An avid horse rider, Coombe felt compelled to start the business as a pandemic pastime because lockdown restrictions closed local track shops to indoor shopping, and she was unable to find horse products in a variety of colours and patterns on online shops. 

“One day, I sat down at my sewing machine and looked up a video on how to do a basic stitch and taught myself how to sew,” said Coombe. “My first project was the stirrup cozy, but I didn’t have a pattern or measurements. I grabbed an old stirrup iron … some scrap fabric and a sharpie. I got to work tracing around the stirrup … stitched it all together and I posted a picture on my Instagram. I received a lot of love from my project and fellow equestrians asked if I was able to make them stirrup cozies for their saddle, so I did!” 

Since the early days of the pandemic, Coombe has expanded her equine products to also include saddle covers, tail covers, horse bonnets and accessories such as t-shirts, key chains and scrunchies.

Alexandrea Coombe, owner of StitchNRide.

“I decided to apply to the [Summer Company] program because I wanted to gain more experience on how to properly run a business and [to build] more community connections,” said Coombe.

Coombe is one of 13 Windsor-Essex student entrepreneurs participating in Summer Company this year. Summer Company is an Ontario government program that provides high school and post-secondary students with the resources and training to start a new summer business. Full-time students, aged 15-29, receive hands-on business education, advice and mentorship from local business leaders and a grant of up to $3,000. Summer Company is administered in Windsor and Essex County by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre (SBEC) at Invest WindsorEssex.

The 2021 Summer Company startups come from a variety of industries including clothing and hair accessories retailers, drone video production, mobile auto detailing, swimming instruction, landscaping, manufacturers for outdoor furniture and commercial signage, and more.

Local Summer Company program participants will join other small businesses Saturdays at the Downtown Windsor Farmers’ Market to sell their products and services until Aug. 28. 

“Every year, we organize opportunities for the students to bring their products and services to local farmers’ markets and events. It’s a terrific opportunity for students to engage with customers and for the community to learn about up-and-coming entrepreneurial talent in Windsor-Essex,” said Myrtle Donnipad, Youth & Entrepreneurship Advisor at the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre.  

Throughout the Summer Company program, students attend biweekly mentoring sessions hosted by SBEC. Summer Company mentors are community members with business experience who volunteer their time to support the students in their business ventures. Previous Summer Company students also return each year to mentor the new entrepreneurs. 

Summer Company is funded by the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.