University

How to Start a Club – Featuring Everett Smith

Have you ever wondered how to start a club (or community) at your school? If yes… you’ve come to the right place!

Getting involved is such an important part of the “student experience”. Clubs, groups, and communities on campus provide students with an opportunity to build new skills, meet new friends, and even better – learn more about themselves. I’ve met some of my best friends through student-run organizations!

The great thing about student clubs is the variety of options. Most campuses offer a range of student groups, each tailored to a unique skill, interest, or passion. However, there are some interests you might have that won’t have an affiliated student group. Although this may seem disappointing at first, it could actually be an opportunity for you to create a new club on your own!

I wanted to share one of my best friend’s experience with starting a student club/community on Big Sister Blog. Everett Smith is a 3rd year student at the University of Toronto, studying in the commerce program. He is also a member of the UofT men’s Varsity swimming team. In October of 2020, Everett started taking the steps to co-found what would become the Blues in Commerce Community at UofT.

Meet Everett

Karley, Everett, and Sarah

Everett Smith and I met in our first year of university (2.5 years ago) in the very first class of the semester. I showed up to this class super early, and ended up having to wait in the hallway until the official start time. While I was waiting, I started talking to another student named Sarah, who is now one of my best friends as well! Sarah and I decided to sit in the third row together, where eventually Everett would rush in at the last minute and randomly sit beside us. Ever since that first day, the three of us have been very close.

Originally from Sudbury, Ontario, Everett is a varsity athlete on the swimming team at the University of Toronto. Everett is currently studying commerce at the Rotman Commerce program in UofT. He is specializing in management and focusing in leadership and organizations.

During our second year at UofT, Everett mentioned this idea he had: creating a student group for varsity athletes who are also studying commerce. Everett saw the need for varsity athletes to support each other and build a community where resources and mentorship would be involved. After this idea evolved, Everett went on to co-found a new student community on campus called “Blues in Commerce“.

What is Blues in Commerce?

Everett Smith, co-founder of Blues in Commerce

“Blues in Commerce is a student community for varsity athletes in the Rotman Commerce program. The club is composed of 5 executive members who work on administrative tasks (marketing, corporate relations, internal development, etc.), and a number of other community members regularly attending events. At UofT, our team name is the varsity Blues. Blues in Commerce was the perfect name for this varsity community. It’s a space for varsity athletes in the commerce program to come together and rely on one another.”

Katie Gay, co-founder of Blues in Commerce

Blues in Commerce (BIC) provides resources for varsity athletes in the commerce program at UofT. Whether these resources are alumni guest speakers, mentorship programs, breakout rooms to meet other student athletes, or collaborative study/tutoring sessions, BIC has dabbled in many areas. After a semester of testing the waters, Blues in Commerce is looking to do lots of new events starting September 2021. “We wanted to do things that would bring the community together. A big part of it was giving back to first years – those who have a lot of questions that they can’t really get answered otherwise”.

Everett wanted to provide a space for people going through these two niche programs – varsity athletics and the commerce program. “Only about 30 of us fit this specific description. We are all going through the challenges of these programs together. Why aren’t we helping each other? Why aren’t we sharing resources?”. These very questions led Everett to co-found Blues in Commerce with fellow Rotman Commerce student (another one of my best friends), Katie Gay.

When Did the Club Officially start?

Everett’s idea initially came to mind during his second year at UofT. However, Everett decided to actively start working on BIC at the start of his third year. Everett wanted to create a close-knit community, and felt that founding the club as an upper year student would provide the most value to younger and incoming students. He was in the best position to engage other upper years to help mentor newer students. After the club’s initial meeting three fellow student-athlete executives Riley, Jack and Fred were added and with the help of a few other students the idea took off.

Everett, member of the varsity men’s swim team at UofT

Being in third year was the perfect time for Everett, because he would be able to trial-run the community during his third year, while also having another year until graduation to continue the community’s growth. There’s no perfect time to start a club, it really depends on your ideas and personal situation. But, if you have a good idea, the best thing to do is get started!

Blues in commerce was a work in progress throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Everett & Katie started the administrative work back in the fall months of 2020. This included meeting with the Rotman Commerce Student Life Department, who walked them through the process of setting up a community. With lots of positive feedback, the team started reaching out to student athletes during November, and the club was up and fully running for its trial period by January 2021. This was when Blues in commerce had its first initial meeting with its wider community members.

Finding Members to Join Your Club

It’s always important to know your target market. In Everett’s case, Blues in Commerce had a very niche category. Knowing the community was tailored to varsity athletes in the commerce program made the search for community members much easier.

To find community members, Everett and the Blues in Commerce Executives reached out to each of the varsity athletes in the commerce program via Facebook Messenger and LinkedIn. Katie & Everett were able to look through each sports teams’ roster, and were able to compile a list of all the people they could reach out to.

“There was so much positive feedback and support when we started reaching out. So many athletes replied saying they wished this community had existed earlier when they were in first year. We were unsure how things would unfold with attendance for our events during COVID, but our first meeting in January successfully had around 20-30 varsity athletes show up.”

“The idea of Blues in Commerce extends beyond current UofT students. We realized this community could be marketed to incoming athletes in the Rotman Commerce program. For student athletes coming into two tough programs, Blues in Commerce is a hand to hold and help you through it.”

Creating an Administrative Team for your Club

Student groups are far from a one-man show. Everett explained how amazing his Executive team has been in the process of co-founding Blues in Commerce.

“Blues in Commerce has 5 leadership positions that are relatively permanent. These 5 members make up the executive team. One member is in charge of administrative matters, including communications with Rotman’s faculty. There is also corporate relations, marketing & social media, event planning, and tutoring/internal development. In the fall of 2021, we will be looking to expand this executive team, opening up a few new positions to take on next year’s initiatives.”

How to Start a Club – The Challenges

“Finding the time to actually start a club is one of the hardest things. For anyone considering starting a club or community, make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew! Although things went smoothly with our pilot project, it admittedly can be very stressful when you first get started. Trying to plan events for a community of 40-50 people can be overwhelming at first. Don’t be scared to ask for help!”

How has Social Media Played a Role in Your Club?

“Social Media has become a huge part of our presence as a community – especially with COVID-19. Reaching out through Facebook Messenger and LinkedIn allowed us to connect with potential members of the Blues in Commerce community.”

“Other than an email list, posting through instagram was our main method of communication with people in the community. We have used zoom, instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook to grow our presence within Rotman. Social media has truly been an integral part of growing Blues in Commerce and communicating with our members.”

Advice for People Who Want to Start Club?

“If you have an idea, be confident with it! Don’t doubt yourself or your idea.At first I had worries in the back of my head that people might not be interested in the community. Reaching out to 40-50 people can be pretty daunting when you think about it. However, if you really believe in your idea, and have that confidence in yourself, other people will will see that and will want to follow you.”

“Not to be cliché by quoting nike, but if you want to start your own club, just do it. If you are confident enough in your idea, people will be interested in what you have to say. Believe your ideas are worthy of other people’s time. You’ve got this!”

“The ability to help other people is so valuable to me. I would have appreciated this help when I was in first year. Being able to set people on track and give back to the community is something really special to me. Being able to provide value to others is very rewarding, and I hope others feel the same way in starting their own community”

Closing Thoughts

Starting a student club could be your next opportunity to create something great. Thank you again to Everett for sharing his insights about starting Blues in Commerce. We both hope his words will provide some value to those interested in starting a student community or club.

Thank you again for taking the time to read. If you have an idea, be confident in yourself. If you have the belief, other people will follow you. Even if it takes time, it’s always worth it.

Karley

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