Students get a taste of business ownership



Riley Johnson, 16, top, oversees Eva, 9, and Maia Stojcic, 12, during swimming lessons at the Stojcic pool in Chatham recently.
Riley Johnson, 16, top, oversees Eva, 9, and Maia Stojcic, 12, during swimming lessons at the Stojcic pool in Chatham recently.

Riley Johnson is spending the summer submerged in her work.

The 16-year-old Chatham-Kent Secondary School student runs Riley’s Under the Sea Swim School. She offers Red Cross swim lessons home and away – either from her family pool or that of the paying customers.

“Most of the time people come to my pool, but I also head to other people’s pools to teach,” she explained.

By offering lessons in her family pool, parents who don’t have one in their backyard can still send their kids to personalized lessons.

The day The Voice caught up to Johnson, she was in the Stojcic’s backyard, working with Eva, 9 and Maia, 12. Her students laughed and had fun, but paid close attention to Johnson’s guidance.

Johnson formed her business with the help of the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre, utilizing the Summer Company program. The program is offered by the provincial government in partnership with the small business centre.

Johnson said spending the summer in the water teaching younger kids to swim – while running her own business – is a great combination.

“I love all kids and I really love swimming and have all my lifeguard ratings,” she said, adding teaching children “is something parents asked me about. And a friend told me about the (Summer Company) program.”

Rosemarie Montgomery, who oversees the Summer Company program for the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre, said there are four young entrepreneurs in Chatham-Kent taking part this year, the maximum allotment from the province.

“Participants have to be in school and returning to school in the fall to take part,” she said.

Johnson and another program participant offer swimming lessons, while another runs a lawn care/odd jobs business and a fourth helps small businesses design websites and work with social media.

“It’s incredible what they do,” Montgomery said. “It lets them be a business owner before they graduate.”

Participants in Summer Company must also be between the ages of 15 and 29, and must submit a detailed business plan to the province.

Johnson said developing the business plan was quite detailed, but praised Montgomery’s assistance.

“Rosemarie was great. She really helped me so much.”

Montgomery said the small business centre initially had 31 inquiries for this summer’s positions. But only six ultimately submitted business plans.

The successful applicants received $1,500 to help pay for equipment. If participants complete the program, they will also receive an additional $1,500, “plus whatever they earn over the summer,” Montgomery said.

Johnson thinks she’s on track to complete the program and receive the end-of-year payout, which she anticipates using to start up her business again next summer.

Montgomery said the participants meet with her and a designated local business owner, who acts as a mentor, every other week to discuss any issues.

As well, they must put at least 35 hours of week into their business.

The application window for Summer Company for each year from February to May. For more information, visit


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