After seeing firsthand some of the social issues which can make life difficult in the Canadian North, a group of Royal Roads University students is putting newly learned business skills to good use.
As part of their curriculum, the group of five commerce students built a functioning e-commerce website, 60thandabove.ca, where international art lovers or dealers can bid on art from Canada’s north and help a good cause in the process.
Half the profits go to the artist and the other half goes to Arctic Children and Youth Foundation, an Ottawa-based charity which supports children through social programs in the North.
Group member Leandra Grenier-Green worked with children there for a time.
“I saw tons of social issues. The kids would go home, the parents wouldn’t be there, they’d be locked out overnight,” she said. “This program helps negate that. It gives the kids more of a chance to engage with the community and to not fall into their parent’s footsteps necessarily.”
“Homeless is a huge one. Alcoholism is another one,” Matt Antwright said of what he saw there.
Along with the troubles, the students also noticed the beautiful and unique art that is a part of the Northern culture.
“There’s so much art, so many beautiful pieces, we figured we could bring them together and create a business to help communities in need,” said Antwright.
While the students make it clear they don’t believe the North is in dire need of outside help, they saw this venture as a way to help out on a number of levels.
The students see the benefits as threefold: helping the artists gain more exposure, helping Northern communities through the charity and helping art dealers discover new talents.
In terms of the primary point of the project, the student’s own education, each said the experience has been worthwhile.
“I think we’re using all the skills we’ve learned … and we’re putting it all towards this business, which is the end goal of this degree,” Shawna Yule said. “It’s giving us a little taste of what the real world will be like.”
The website is up and running, with art available to be bid on. Artists agreed to sell their works on the site, knowing 50 per cent of the profits will go towards the charity.
“It’s already a success from our standpoint,” said Raymond Monner. “But then if we sell more we can increase the amount that we give.”
Visit 60thandabove.ca to view the student’s page, or acyf.ca to learn more about the Arctic Children and Youth Foundation.