Creating Jobs and Sustainability
Students in Fanshawe's International Business Management (ITB) program learned firsthand about sustainability, social responsibility and international business from a talented, dynamic and award-winning entrepreneur at the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business on October 5, 2009.
Left to right: Tina Gokstorp (CTAR co-founder), Pedro Patino (ITB grad and CTAR contractor), Murray Morgan (ITB program coordinator).
Tina Gokstorp is Momentum Maven, Business Development & Strategy and co-founder of Canadian Telecommunications Asset Recovery (CTAR). CTAR specializes in helping telecommunications clients deal with obsolete and excess equipment inventory. Together with co-founder Stephanie McLarty, CTAR introduced the principle of asset recovery to clients in the telecommunications industry, and gradually included wireless, IT and high tech equipment in their portfolio of services. CTAR also began serving major corporations from other industries to help them deal with obsolete technology. Tina and Stephanie have worked with an impressive list of clients and prospects including Rogers, Telus, RBC and Shaw Communications. The obsolete equipment is eventually distributed to telecom firms in developing nations, donated to needy non-profit organizations in South America and Africa or otherwise recycled.
The need, relevance and capability of CTAR are exemplified in the tremendous growth and success of the company since its inception and reflect growing stakeholder concern regarding e-waste. According to Stephanie McLarty, Chief Catalyst, Client Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility, "Being environmentally and socially responsible has never been better for business. This is true not only from the perspective of the consumer and the community, but also from the financial gain and indirect savings from these practices. Besides generating our significant cash flow for our clients last year, we also diverted 174 tonnes and the equivalent of 47 big school buses of electronics from landfills."
Tina and Stephanie were featured on the cover of the September 2009 issue of Business London. Through a series of positive coincidences, the cover photo was arranged by Fanshawe's IT and Marketing & Communications departments and several connections to Fanshawe were reported in the story called "Technology Transfer: Reduce, Reuse and E-cycle."
The connection to CTAR was facilitated through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DeFAIT) and reflects determined efforts to build a network of complementary partners and stakeholders interested in International Trade. Fanshawe's ITB program coordinator, Murray Morgan, attended a presentation at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto in October 2008 where Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) President Sara Diamond presented "Designs on the Economy". Morgan met a policy analyst from Industry Canada and discussed his vision of connecting international business management students with SMEs that were positioned for success in the global economy.
After sharing a research paper on this theme and inviting open collaboration, Morgan was contacted by DeFAIT representative Andrea Clements. Andrea had been appointed as Trade Commissioner for Southwestern Ontario and together with Tony Knill, Director and Senior Trade Commissioner; they visited Fanshawe to explore opportunities for collaboration related to international business.
Murray indicated an interest in guest speakers, case studies, a desire to create internships and a willingness to explore any learning opportunities for students in the ITB program that aligned with the FITT curriculum and might create mutually beneficial outcomes. He stressed the diversity of the program and its success in attracting international and internationally-trained students.
Some weeks later, Andrea called and suggested that CTAR could be an interesting case study. Tina from CTAR asked for assistance from Fanshawe College as CTAR was hoping to be featured in an upcoming Business London story and also expressed interest in the students' research capability.
ITB students will gather research on potential markets this semester, and the best projects and interested students will have an opportunity to work on even more specific projects for CTAR next semester as part of their Individual Work Project. International students Aileen Ferguson-Stultz from Jamaica and Gagan Dhanjal from India will apply their knowledge of international markets to the CTAR project. Similarly, Oscar Guisandes from Venezuela, Emmanuel Asafo-Adjei from Ghana, Marcela Pereira Porto from Brazil, Gabriel Silva from Chile and their classmates will leverage their unique insight to uncover new possibilities for CTAR. Abdalla Sabbahi has already volunteered to invest time next summer helping CTAR explore business opportunities in Lebanon and the Middle East. Gary Holt commented "CTAR appears to be a company with the potential to develop into world leaders in their field. I am looking forward to researching the possibilities of them expanding into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) market, and see a real opportunity to develop the consulting side of their business assisting companies to develop CSR policies relating to e-waste management."
CTAR is part of an emerging cluster of technology firms in London that are collaborating with the ITB program, including NerdsOnSite and iLookAbout.
Gokstorp and McLarty were selected as 2009 finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards and Tina was also winner of the TechAlliance 60 second pitch contest. Tina shared her presentation and highlighted the importance of a brief, powerful 'pitch' to investors or prospective employers. This is consistent with Professor Morgan's advice to students to develop and fine-tune their 'elevator pitch' for networking in their quest for career opportunities.
The positive coincidences in this story continue! Tina and Stephanie have grown their business through dedication and really hard work and realized they needed additional human resources to accelerate the momentum. They were looking for a business development specialist and offered a short-term contract to recent ITB graduate Pedro Patino, on the basis of his international training, experience and language skills. Pedro returned to Fanshawe with Tina Gokstorp to speak to the ITB class and Professors Sophocles Katsademas and Roberta Wheeler.
With the challenging economic conditions and global financial crisis, it is not easy to start and expand a small business that seeks to compete in international trade. CTAR is excited about the possibility of the recently announced Southern Ontario Development Program through which FedDev is providing funding for businesses and community development as part of Canada's Economic Action Plan.
With 60 to 80 hour work weeks, it's impressive that entrepreneurs like Tina Gokstorp can make time to inspire students at the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business. Hopefully the work of the ITB students, the fascinating CTAR business model, the passion of its co-founders for sustainability and the recently announced government funding will create even more employment opportunities for Fanshawe graduates.