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Local Teen Gets His Start in Business
  by Jason Kerkvliet  
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Turbo Tinder packaged

There is no pleasure quite like being your own boss, one local teen is learning. Jason Kerkvliet, a 17-year-old Parkside student, is spending his summer building a business. He has developed a fire starter for campfires, woodstoves, and fireplaces, called TurboTinder. "The goal," says Kerkvliet, "is to save people time. I know from years of camping that it can be a real pain to get a fire going. I wanted to make something that would take that stress away."

Kerkvliet makes the product himself. "There are only two ingredients - wood shavings and paraffin wax - so the product is safe to burn around children and pets. The wood shavings I get from a local carpentry shop, and the wax I buy from a supplier in Toronto," says Kerkvliet. The fire starters come shaped as pucks, in packs of twelve, retailing around $6.00. One puck will burn for 15 minutes, and removes the need for newspaper and kindling.

TurboTinder is now being sold by a number of local retailers, including Berry Hill, Briwood, St. Thomas and Port Stanley Foodlands, Firetech, Country Grocery, and Dixie Dairy Bar and Tackle Shop. "Stores in the community have been tremendously supportive," says Kerkvliet.

Kerkvliet is one of the 15 local students operating a business this year through a provincial program, called Summer Company, facilitated by the Elgin/St. Thomas Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC). Students submitted business plans to the province, in industries from apparel to lawn care to IT services. Those that were approved received a $1500.00 start-up grant, with the potential to receive a $1500.00 participation award at the end of the summer, as long as they successfully meet the program requirements.

When asked what inspired this summer occupation, Kerkvliet replied, "I wanted to learn the skills of business - everything from how to approach stores to how to buy barcodes. There have been lots of challenges, but I am learning from them." His sentiment is echoed by the SBEC program provider, Tara McCaulley, "The objective of Summer Company is to create opportunities for aspiring young entrepreneurs to experience the hard work required to research, plan, and launch a business. The most notable benefits are the life-long skills developed, connections made in the community, and the income generated by their efforts."

"It's been an adventure so far, and there have been quite a few rewarding successes," says Kerkvliet. "I'm learning so much every day. I can't wait to see where this product will end up."

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