Grad cultivates entrepreneurial spirit at Western

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Rhys Wickens, BSc’20, likes to venture into the unknown. He left his hometown of Calgary to come to Western; he took a year off school for an internship; he’s looking into becoming an entrepreneur.

And now the 23-year-old Actuarial Sciences student is preparing to break into the insurance business – personal device insurance to be exact.

Wick Insurance would sell device protection for phones, tablets and laptops, similar to extended warranties that are offered with point of sale purchases, but using third party repair shops to do the work.

“I’d been thinking about this for a couple years, to start my own business, so I did some research, felt it was something that could work, and went all in,” said Wickens, whose mother Maureen, BSc’81, is also a Western grad.

On June 19, Wickens will join more than 300,000 Western alumni living around the world as a newly minted graduate and member of the Western Class of 2020

It was after spending a one-year internship with Ontario Power Generation, and during his last year at Western, when the entrepreneurial bug bit – along with the steep learning curve.

Less than a month after classes officially ended, he found himself part of the Western Accelerator summer program, which provides an intense and immersive education for prospective entrepreneurs to get their ideas off the ground.

“Nerves and excitement. It was a bit of everything,” Wickens said. “I really didn’t know all the behind the scenes of how a business works. I knew I needed to find resources that could help me understand.”

Western Accelerator is quickly filling those needs.

“They have been able to teach me so much already, only a month in. It has been huge in helping me understanding where I need to be in the process in order to get my business ready to launch.”

While he’d much rather be on campus networking and throwing ideas off other Accelerator participants, Wickens said the online version of the program remains strong in offering leadership and sales training, how to speak with potential investors and continues to offer one-on-one mentoring.

“I’d rather it be in person, of course, but they’ve done a great job transitioning it online in the short time they had,” he said. “I don’t know what I’d be doing – or even if I’d want to start this business – if it wasn’t for this program.”

While his entrepreneurial sprit continues to grow at Western, Wickens looks back at his four years in London as the time he created his strongest network of friends.

From living in residence in first year, to living in a house with his friends the following years, to getting involved in campus life through intramural sports, the campus atmosphere solidified what his mom had told him about Western.

“There are just so many events and activities to be a part of and it allows you to meet so many new people,” said Wickens, who would advise new students to do whatever they can to get involved on campus.

“I made a ton of new friends that I’ll have the rest of my life. If I had to do it all over again, it would definitely be at Western.”