Imagine everything you own. Now imagine being forced to flee your home without any of those possessions. This was reality for University of Lethbridge's Master of Arts graduate, Nathir Haimoun (MA '20). The 27 year old was displaced during the conflict in Syria back in 2011. Fortunately, Nathir and his family survived the war, but the grief over his belongings left behind over a decade ago still lingers.
Instead of sitting back and washing his hands of the past, Haimoun took his own misfortune and turned it into a business called 404Movers. The idea behind 404Movers is to create an Uber-like service for the moving industry in Canada. Haimoun says, "with more than 15 per cent of Canadians moving every year, the goal is to provide the moving and delivery industry the option of lower fees, more reliable service and provide a better structure for individual service providers."
Funding the dream
Looking for ways to support his new business, Haimoun jumped at the opportunity to apply for an Accelerate-Entrepreneur award through Mitacs. Mitacs is a government funded, independent non-profit agency that focuses on supporting business innovation and commercialization by promoting partnerships between organizations and post-secondary institutions. ULethbridge Partnerships and Commercialization Coordinator, Brandie Lea says, in order to receive an Accelerate-Entrepreneur award, the proposed project must include a participant from each of the three following groups: a contributor from a business, non-profit, municipality or hospital; a researcher from a post- secondary institution; and a student from post secondary. Lea says, "the intent is to allow the student to assist the external entity with their business while being supervised by a university researcher."
With a strong proposal and the right criteria, Haimoun was granted an award through Mitacs worth $60,000. The budding entrepreneur says, "this funding has made it possible to hire interns and make sure the project is being planned smoothly in terms of software and business development."
Choosing the right mentor
Throughout this next year, Haimoun will also be working with Dhillon School of Business (DSB) professor Dr. Feng Jiao from ULethbridge's Calgary campus. Professor Jiao will provide guidance, support and help to identify development needs as Haimoun's supervisor. Haimoun says he chose to work with Dr. Jiao because his research interests aligned with his project. "He has also shown his support for the entrepreneurial journey," adds Haimoun. Professor Jiao says Haimoun has a bright future in the business world, "Nathir is self-motivated and knows what he wants to achieve." The DSB professor feels his ambitious counterpart is well deserving of this award and says, "his proposal has great potential, he identified a niche, yet underserved marketplace for his innovative idea."
When dreams become reality
Haimoun is humbled by the award. For him, it means it's possible to pursue his dream of starting his own business. "It also helps mitigate some of the risks that come with starting a new business," he says. Haimoun encourages ULethbridge students and alumni looking to start their own business to take advantage of awards like the one Mitacs has offered him. While funding certainly helps, the award recipient says, "you also need to develop the entrepreneur mindset by working hard and developing the right skills."
Currently, Haimoun is wrapping up the software piece of the web application process, and is starting work on mobile applications. Haimoun's plan is to launch his business in Calgary by January 2023 and eventually expand to other cities across the country.
Undergraduate or graduate students are welcome to learn more about the Accelerate-Entrepreneur funding available to them by contacting ULethbridge's Business Development Advisor, Hannah Scott, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by booking an appointment here.
The Dhillon School of Business at the University of Lethbridge is known for its immersive experiential learning opportunities, connecting learners with industry, its supportive, personalized approach and for exposing students to emerging technology. Study options are available in both Lethbridge and Calgary.