Views / Toronto / Mom and Pop Shops

Skateboard program reaps Dragons’ Den benefits

Inside the halls of the Oasis Alternative Secondary School, Kyle Echlin and his peers are cashing in on his big idea.

The 18-year-old is the fifth winner of CBC’s Future Dragon Fund. The contest, spearheaded by TV star Kevin O’Leary, gives out $5,000 to help students in Grades 11 and 12 pursue their own business project.

“I wanted to help teens that had a desire to start their own businesses. I was unable to find any charity that supported them, so I started my own,” says O’Leary.

Oasis is no ordinary institution. Students at the Toronto District alternative school often, but not always, have a background in “trouble,” not business.

The school runs a successful program called the Oasis Skateboard Factory that teaches students how to create their own skate business from the ground up and build a brand. Echlin is not only enrolled in the program, he’s also its business manager.

The former dropout learned the basic how-tos of entrepreneurialism in the program and garnered the confidence he needed to win the competition. Echlin won the competition for his video about his school’s program, in which he asked for funding to buy much-needed supplies for the school.

“The school gives kids like me something that no other school does,” he says. “You may get a second chance in life, but it’s always on your record and people will ‘ooh’ at you. Here no one cares about your past.”

Echlin plans to use the money he received from O’Leary to give back to the program that started it all for him, so it can invest in more machinery, artwork and tools.

No surprise that O’Leary holds the same teachings close to his heart.

“I believe everybody who has achieved some success should give back. This is my way of doing that,” he says.

Echlin hopes his Future Dragon Fund win will show other youth that despite adversity, success is achievable.

“This is gonna show people what the value of money is and how it works,” he says. “You have to work hard to get good things, and we worked so hard for this.”

Although next semester will be Echlin’s last, he plans to stay in touch with his alma mater and move forward with starting his own business.

“I’m hoping to have my own shop and stay in touch with Oasis.... Maybe I’ll end up being that guy talking to a little me.”

Future audition dates for CBC's Dragons' Den can be found below:January 18 – Toronto ON (1 of 2)

January 23 – Windsor ON

January 24 – Sarnia ON

January 25 – London ON, Montreal QC (1 of 2), Vancouver BC (1 of 2)

January 29 – Peterborough ON, Regina SK, Surrey BC

January 31 – Nanaimo BC, Saskatoon SK

February 1 – Calgary AB (1 of 2), Victoria BC, Winnipeg MB

February 6 – Burlington ON, Collingwood ON, Sudbury ON

February 8 – Barrie ON, Ottawa ON, St. Johns NFLD

February 12 – Oshawa ON, Saint John NB

February 14 – Charlottetown PEI, Quebec City QC, Waterloo ON

February 15 – Edmonton AB, Halifax NS, Montreal QC (2 of 2)

February 19 – Kelowna BC

February 21 – Abbotsford BC, Medicine Hat AB, Niagara Falls ON

February 22 – Calgary AB (2 of 2), Hamilton ON, Vancouver BC (2 of 2)

March 1 – Toronto ON (2 of 2)

For more information and full details, visit www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/auditions.

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