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Startup: Dave Wilkin, CampusPerks founder

I was involved with a lot of activities on campus, from intramurals, to clubs and societies, said Dave Wilkin, founder of CampusPerks, recalling where his business came from. I saw how we were always trying to go out there to find support from various companies, and at the same time I saw a lot of companies restricted to putting up posters or flyers, basically sending in people to set up big tents on campus. And I thought, all of us were running different organizations, whether it was sports tournaments, or clubs, or conferences, socials, you name it. What if we could have the opportunity to work with those companies to make our student life bigger and better?
And that's when Dave decided to turn his idea into reality by launching CampusPerks, an online, student community that aims to fuel student life on campus, and help students make the best of their campus experience. Launched in 2010, CampusPerks works with top Canadian brands to create sponsorship, scholarship, and exclusive opportunities for students. By visiting CampusPerks.ca and signing up, students from fashionistas, to athletes, to clubs, and student life leaders can receive the resources and experiences they need grow their own initiatives, better their campus life, and enjoy little perks every month.

When asked how CampusPerks benefits the brands who work with him, he explained, Brands always struggle to find a meaningful and effective way to engage with youth. They need to see the return (on their investment), and the way they see this return is that we find brands' true advocates and give them the opportunity to become a part of their advocates' organizations, networks, and events by giving them the tools to make student life bigger and better. We find those students who not only love the brand, but also when they get access to the brand, they are able to really mobilize and empower their friends and on-campus community. ... We've seen it time and time again that when brands actually help and support students, when they learn how they can use their brand to help empower students to do great things, they will have a longer term and more meaningful relationship with them. Very simply this is more effective and meaningful use of their marketing budgets.

One example of CampusPerks playing matchmaker between students and brands was during Valentines. A big multinational brand came to us and said, ÔÇÿHey, it's February. It's Valentines Day. It's time to spread the love across communities.' So we partnered them with some really cool charities and student associations to help them spread the love even more within their target communities, with everything from sandwiches for homeless people, to canned food drives in local communities. And so this brand was able to partner with some of the best advocates in their communities, and help them bring their initiatives to a whole new level.   

Examples like this are just one of many, and it's for that reason that CampusPerks has grown so much since its launch. In two years, we're leading the youth initiatives for the biggest brands and we're already on track for over $500,000 in sponsorships and giveaways for students in Canada. Next plan's for us is to continue to plan and offer more opportunities for students in Canada, partnering with a lot more brands. To be considered for these opportunities, students just need to sign-up by visiting CampusPerks.ca.

But all this success couldn't have come without setbacks, Dave recalls some of the difficulties he came across when first starting up. Something we were slow to do was to make partnerships with the right types of groups. In the early stages, we worked directly with students, now their national head offices are calling us to see how we can benefit them from coast to coast. In many cases, we have since been named their preferred ally for students and youth. 

In the end, for all those budding entrepreneurs, Dave advises that you should, Find something you're truly passionate about. Entrepreneurship is truly a matter of finding a project you're passionate about and chasing that. Also, joining a small company provides you with an opportunity to get the meaningful work experience that will help when you're starting out.