Learning from failure: How to rebound when an idea doesn't pan out

In an attempt to end the cycle of poverty affecting low-income families, a UCalgary student and her classmates opened doors to more learning opportunities.

By Doug Ferguson
May 2017

 

By trying to create a business to help low-income families, Miranda Mantey improved her own life.

“I learned so much from that experience,” says the Haskayne School of Business student. “It’s so important to dream and challenge the ‘why’ behind things. It’s looking at something and saying: ‘Is that the way we have to do it? Is there something we can come up with that’s better than that?’”

Along with two other students, the 21-year-old created a business called Bundles of Hope in 2015 as part of a class on entrepreneurship at Haskayne. “Our premise was that there is a cycle of poverty related to diapers and low-income families,” she says. “They can’t afford diapers and if they don’t have diapers, they can’t send their kids to daycare — and then one of the parents can't work, and it’s kind of this giant circle.”

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UCalgary student Miranda Mantey
Caption: 
“I still believe the heart of the company, and the idea behind it, could be really successful,” says Miranda Mantey of the Bundles of Hope project. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The idea was to hire low-income mothers to produce baby swaddling blankets, says Mantey. “They would be able to work out of their homes on their own time and they wouldn’t have to commute.”

Part of the proceeds from each blanket would be used to donate a day’s worth of diapers for one family to the Calgary Food Bank, she says. “We actually did donate 250 diapers, and we provided work for 20 hours for a low-income mother who was a refugee, so we did have a little bit of traction.”

Despite selling about 50 blankets, the project ran into difficulties that included finding a stable and affordable fabric supplier. It proved to be too time-consuming for Mantey and her partners to iron out such problems while trying to balance their lives as students with part-time jobs.

Although Bundles of Hope was halted in October, Mantey is tentatively exploring ways the project could eventually be revived. “I still believe the heart of the company, and the idea behind it, could be really successful,” she says. “It didn’t work out at this time because of where we are in life right now.”

The initiative is an example of how Haskayne creates opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience of being entrepreneurs, says Mantey. “I think the best thing that came out of it was experiencing all the intricacies of starting a business and how to get things done,” she says.

“In school, you learn things on paper — you learn about management or finance in one class, and operations in another class, and so on. But you won't fully understand how they all integrate together until you actually do it yourself.”

The project earned a Viewer’s Choice Award in 2015 at the inaugural RBC Fast Pitch Competition, which is held each year by the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Haskayne. “Miranda and her group had to pitch to some of the top venture capitalists, bankers and entrepreneurs in Calgary,” says Houston Peschl, an instructor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the faculty.

“She really stood out from day one as somebody who was incredibly insightful and passionate about their idea. I think Miranda is a perfect example of someone who exhibited entrepreneurial thinking, developed some resiliency and really learnt a lot about themselves.”

Having Bundles of Hope on her resume directly led to Mantey being hired by ATB Financial, where she is employed part-time as a co-ordinator of business innovation. She hopes to work full-time for the company once she graduates in 2018 with a Bachelor of Commerce in Risk Management and Insurance.

“I absolutely love my job, and it all came from my work with Bundles of Hope,” she says. “Yes, we ‘failed,’ but I learned so much — and it started an entirely new career path for me.”

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