First student business opens through UMSU Ventures

Student entrepreneur aims to grow his business, create mental health awareness

UMSU’s newest project UMSU Ventures has officially launched with the opening of Nabiva Jewelers, run by accounting and
management information systems student Tommy Bernabe.

In September 2023, UMSU announced that it would be accepting applications for its new initiative aiming to provide student
entrepreneurs with a free space to grow their businesses.

UMSU vice president finance and operations Vaibhav Varma said UMSU had been trying to come up with a use for its flex
space across from the service centre.
“One of the big things I’m passionate about and one of the things that I ran on was supporting student entrepreneurs,” said Varma.

Varma said there has been success for student businesses in pop up markets in University Centre, but that those opportunities have always been temporary. He said this program would provide students with “a legitimate storefront with high foot traffic,” and “two months of establishing [their] brand.”

To ensure that the application and selection processes were “as unbiased as possible,” the finance committee ranked each business on a number of metrics, including innovativeness, benefit to students and consideration of finances. After each
business was ranked, Nabiva Jewelers ended up being the “final candidate.”
One of the main issues that Varma highlighted for student entrepreneurs was the difficulty of finding an affordable space to
run their business. Through the UMSU Ventures program, the flex space will be lent to small student businesses for free,
allowing for innovation and growth.
“This is really the best place to try new things,” said Tommy Bernabe, the founder and CEO of Nabiva.
Bernabe said he began “conceptualizing” his business during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since I had so much free time, I felt like this would be the perfect time to start something entrepreneurial,” he said.
The pandemic was also a “very isolating” time for Bernabe. Through his mental health struggles, he wanted to make sure his
business also had a “social impact.”
Bernabe donates one per cent of proceeds to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Bernabe saw participating in UMSU Ventures as a chance to step out of his “comfort zone” while also spreading mental health
awareness and building his brand.
Bernabe found out he was chosen for UMSU shortly before he was supposed to open, but he said that besides the initial
rush, UMSU has been very “responsive” in assisting him with the opening process.

“[We’re] trying to see how we can make sure this really becomes a success for not only myself but for future ventures who are in this space,” said Bernabe.

To ensure longevity of the program, Varma said that applications will always be open, so that there is always somebody to move into the space right after another business moves out.

“Once I transition my successor, this is something I’m really going to be prioritizing that they continue,” said Varma.

The grand opening of UMSU Ventures will occur on March 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in 102A University Centre.