LaunchYU works with non-profit and local entrepreneurs

York University’s entrepreneurship unit, LaunchYU, is collaborating with the Toronto-based not-for-profit Back 2 Basickz for Passion into Profit, an initiative aimed at helping individuals living in the Jane and Finch community obtain the skills and knowledge needed to become successful entrepreneurs.

The program, funded by the York University TD Community Engagement Centre, will train up to 24 prospective entrepreneurs from the Jane and Finch community on how to turn their passion into a profitable business. Beginning on Feb. 20, multiple workshops will be delivered by LaunchYU and Back 2 Basickz. At the end of the program, participants will present to a “Community Den” where their business ideas will be examined. The top two participants, selected on the business potential of their idea, will each be awarded $1,000 to support the launch of their respective businesses. The newly trained entrepreneurs can also continue to receive support from LaunchYU once the business has launched into market.

Sarah Howe

“Continued support for entrepreneurs is so important to the success of their businesses. LaunchYU programming is just the beginning of the relationship we have with our entrepreneurs,” says Sarah Howe, director of Innovation York. “It is our commitment to ongoing mentoring and ability to connect entrepreneurs to resources outside of the University that is also key in their success.”

The collaboration was a natural progression for Back 2 Basickz and LaunchYU, both of which are highly focused on entrepreneurial skill building. Back 2 Basickz founder Amanda Coombs is a bachelor of arts (psychology) student and is a 2015 graduate of LaunchYU’s AccelerateUP program, which provides lectures, workshops, one-on-one mentorship and other services that help early-stage ventures as they launch and grow their business. The not-for-profit organization Back 2 Basickz provides basic academic skills, mentoring and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth who have been involved with the criminal justice system.

Amanda Coombs

“Each individual participating in this collaboration has the drive, commitment, passion and determination which I believe is the perfect recipe for accomplishing anything that you put your mind to,” says Coombs.

Working together to bring the Passion into Profit project to the Jane and Finch community is an important step in ensuring a positive social and economic impact for the at-risk community. “These people have to overcome many difficult circumstances. Passion into Profit serves as an outlet for many of these barriers by allowing individuals the freedom to pursue their own vision,” says Coombs.

Coombs’s passion, combined with an innate understanding of the Jane and Finch community, makes her the ideal partner for this initiative. In fact, her dedication to serve others has led her to receive the Senate 150th Anniversary Medal. As one of eight Canadian volunteers selected for the prestigious award, Coombs was recognized for her altruistic leadership in the Jane and Finch community. Coombs says that “each day will present a new challenge, but the sense of pride and fulfillment … is worth it.”

The Passion into Profit application form will be available online until Feb. 8. To apply for the program or learn more, visit