Sarah Prevette is a familiar face in the Canadian tech scene. She is a serial entrepreneur and former venture capitalist.

Prevette is best known as the founder of Sprouter.com, a website that let entrepreneurs get real-time answers from mentors; and BetaKit, an online publication that focused on technology, startups and innovation.

She has spoken at major conferences, invested in companies and mentored companies.

Today, Prevette is launching a new initiative – a Waterloo Region based summer camp for young entrepreneurs through her latest company, the Future Design School (FDS). It’s her vision for creating the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs.

The camp runs Aug. 10-14 at the Communitech Hub. 

The program enables kids to pursue their individual passions, explore ideas and build actionable prototypes. The camp is open to youth entering Grades 6-9 and features mentorship from local entrepreneurs.

I chatted with Prevette to learn more about what led her to starting FDS, what campers can expect, and what she wishes she knew as young woman starting down her entrepreneur career path.

Q – You’ve been an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. What led you to found Future Design School? What is FDS?

A – Over the past several years, I’ve had the immense privilege to spend time with many exceptional entrepreneurs who have reshaped industries, built their ideas into global brands and had massive impact on the world around them.

These people possess common traits: they see opportunities in challenges, are unfailingly resourceful and can creatively problem-solve on the fly. They are also confident in their personal capacity to affect change and are passionate about their individual pursuits.

With FDS, we want to inspire this kind of entrepreneurial philosophy at an early age. We want to teach a repeatable process of ideation, validation and rapid execution so that all kids are confident in their ability to innovate.

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Sarah Prevette, founder of FDS (photo courtesy of FDS).

Q – What’s your ideal vision with FDS? Where do you see it going?

A – We have a big vision for FDS and are excited to bring it to fruition.  While we’re starting with workshops, camps and after-school programs, we have plans to further expand our programming and offerings.

Our mission is to inspire kids to pursue big ideas and have real impact.

We want to create an expectation of meaningful innovation amongst the next generation and equip them with the tools and frameworks to affect real change in the world around them.

We believe that creativity is a skill set that can be developed, and that all kids should be encouraged to realize their own entrepreneurial potential.

Q – Tell me a bit about the summer camp. What will the program be like? What can campers expect?

A – Our camp is fun, fast-paced and unlike anything kids will have previously experienced. We open eyes to a whole new world of possibility and enable them to experiment.

Our Innovation Camp is one part inspiration, two parts hands-on experience.

Campers are exposed to game-changing innovation, mentored by experienced entrepreneurs, and encouraged to think outside the box. Our team is passionate about helping kids come up with great ideas, test their concepts and develop their skills as creative leaders.

We have an exceptional team of facilitators — entrepreneurs who have built their own companies, created their own products and are ridiculously talented at teaching the design process.

Kids actually build their own prototypes, learn how to test their ideas and ultimately present their customer-tested solutions to an audience of family and friends.

Q – You’re Toronto-based. Why are you bringing the camp to Waterloo? 

A – Waterloo is a global hub for innovation and has a deeply entrenched culture of entrepreneurship.

Iain Klugman (President  and CEO of Communitech) was one of the first people I reached out to, to talk about the idea of FDS, and he was a great early supporter of the vision.

Iain is famous for always referring to the “Toronto-Waterloo Corridor” and he’s absolutely right. Our cities are entwined in innovation through a constant flow of startups, investors and talent.

We have a shared ecosystem that benefits all of Canada, and I am immensely proud of all of the incredible innovation happening in southwestern Ontario — and the impact the region is having on the global stage.

Communitech has been at the forefront of developing this formidable community and I couldn’t be more proud to have FDS be a part of it.

Q – You’re a serial entrepreneur. What would you have liked to tell your high-school-aged self about your path? 

A – Oh boy — there’s a long laundry list of things I’d like to tell my high-school-aged self.

Firstly, I’d equip my teenage self with all of the incredible methods we teach at FDS and the best approaches for user-centered design. I’d show her how to build her ideas with customer validation, how to rapidly prototype and get her ideas to market quickly.

I’d tell her to fall in love with the problem she’s solving — not the solution.

I’d warn her against the perils of letting her ego get in the way of good advice, and encourage her to always surround herself with the smartest people she can find.

I’d tell her that she can start today, that she doesn’t need to wait till after university. In fact, I’d question what she hopes to get out of her university education and challenge her to experience more of the world before deciding what to study.

I’d also tell her to stop seeing life as a linear path.

I’d tell her to throw out her pre-conceived, culturally reinforced notions that success is about corporate achievement or wealth accumulation; that happiness doesn’t come through professional designations, fancy management titles or the perception of others.

I’d show her that real fulfillment comes from doing what you love — and that having meaningful impact, leveraging the full breadths of your capabilities and working alongside wonderfully kind and brilliant people is one of the surest ways to enjoy your life.

I’d let her know the big secret: that everyone experiences moments of self-doubt, impostor syndrome and fear.

I’d be frank about the fact that there are going to be good days and bad days; that some days she’s going to feel like she’s on top of the world, and other days when she’ll be face down in the dirt wondering which way is up . . . And that sometimes she’ll manage to both win and lose within the very same day.

I’d tell her that she’s going to fail and to get over it. I’d tell her to hustle harder, think bigger and trust her gut.

I’d tell her not to let any more time slip away – to get out there, swing for the fences and strive to make a dent in the universe.