For many hairstylists like Kim Ng, starting their own business is an aspiration that’s often difficult to achieve due to a lack of the necessary business knowledge, skills, funds or all three.
And yet after spending more than 15 years honing her techniques in Toronto, Hong Kong, and Sydney, Australia at major beauty brands—Ng still dreamed of finding a way to take her career to another level.
Ng knew she had to return to school to do that, which is how she found her way into Seneca College's on-campus incubator program, Seneca HELIX. The program provides resources like workshops, mentorship and networking opportunities, all of which Kim used to build and refine a mobile application called BEAUT.
Ng's app connects users to professional hairdressers, stylists and makeup artists based on the user's location and style preferences.
“Many people step into the hair salon and hope to get the best haircut,” she says. “Why should they have to hope? You can return and refund an iPhone, but you can’t uncut your hair.”
In 2018, HELIX was given a $1-million grant by TD Bank through the TD Ready Challenge to deliver the TD-HELIX Transformation Initiative called Career Recharge that helps re-skill and up-skill career professionals at risk of job loss due to changes in the labour market. Ng is one of many participants of HELIX who was able to develop their intrapreneurial skills as they navigate the ever-changing employment landscape.
A 2019 TD survey asked 1,500 mid-career Canadians (who are employed and have been in the workforce for 10 years or more), aged 30-55 about their careers and feelings of job security in a changing labour market. The survey found that less than half (48%) of respondents said they feel very confident their current skillset will set them up for long-term success in their career path. The same poll found that 30% of those surveyed said if their current form of employment were to disappear or they became jobless, that they would seek to reskill or upskill to find a new career as compared to looking for a similar job.*
For Ng, the choice to upskill in order to create a new future for herself in tech will be met with unfamiliar challenges. But navigating new terrain around building her app, growing its user base and running her start-up no longer seem intimidating, with the support of HELIX. When reflecting on this, she says, “I'm up for the challenge.”