University of New Brunswick

UNB Alumni News Spring 2017

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T he entrepreneurial couple behind Canada's largest independent specialty travel business, Merit Travel Group, has made a quarter-of-a-million dollar commitment to help student entrepreneurs at UNB. The $250,000 Merit Travel Fund will support students enrolled in UNB's Technology Management & Entrepreneurship (TME) programs, by supplying travel for experiential learning opportunities. Merit Travel Group co-owners and co-founders Michael Merrithew (BBA'80) and Louise de Grandpré (BPE'79, BBA'80) met at UNB's Fredericton campus. They created Merit Travel in 1991, inspired by an entrepreneurial plan that Michael devised as part of a class project at UNB. Since then, they have grown the company's operations to 420 agents nationwide, serving more than 350,000 travellers each year. The two have been engaged alumni of UNB, funding prizes and bursaries and serving as judges for UNB student business pitch competitions. Merrithew says this initiative will bring Merit Travel's capabilities to UNB's young entrepreneurs, giving them the best start in business. The fund will provide opportunities for students to attend pitch competitions, pursue investment opportunities, and meet and be mentored by national and international entrepreneurs and leaders in business. "We have a strong interest in fostering the growth of entrepreneurs," says Merrithew. "When you're a business owner, a lot depends on your mindset and your ability to accurately assess risks and opportunities. Because those decisions are almost never obvious or easy, we want to give students the opportunity to connect with world-class mentors, seek out knowledgeable investors and pitch their ideas. The Merit Travel Fund will help them do that." De Grandpré says the couple was impressed by Dhirendra Shukla, chair of UNB's J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, and UNB's TME program during their recent visit to campus. "The enthusiasm of Dr. Shukla and his team is contagious, and with all the successful student businesses that have come out of the TME program, we can see why," says de Grandpré. "We had been out of university for a decade when we founded Merit Travel. Through TME, student entrepreneurs at UNB are creating innovative and competitive businesses today." Shukla credits supportive alumni like Merrithew and de Grandpré with the J. Herbert Smith Centre's success. "This is an example of how UNB has earned its reputation as Canada's most entrepreneurial university," he says. "Our students have won the support of some of the greatest business people in Canada. We are very happy to be working with Michael and Louise on this initiative." TRAVEL INDUSTRY INNOVATORS SUPPORT STUDENT ENTREPRENEURS THE MERIT TRAVEL FUND WILL ALLOW STUDENTS TO CONNECT WITH NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL MENTORS Top left: Michael Merrithew (BBA'80) and Louise de Grandpré (BPE'79, BBA'80). Top right: UNB President Eddy Campbell, Niko Valsamis (JD'17), recipient of the Frank Covert Scholarship; Stephanie Allen (JD'17), recipient of the Stewart McKelvey Prize in Commercial Law; Lydia Budgen (LLB'91), Stewart McKelvey CEO and managing partner; and John Williamson (BBA'71, LLB'73), dean of law. ALUMNI NEWS 40

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