Ryan Smolkin Event - Pathway to Poutine

Posted on Friday, September 20th, 2019

Written by Mairin Scannell

Room 149 Macdonald Hall, Ryan Smolkin

You can hear the 80’s glam rock coming out of room 149 as soon as you open the doors to Macdonald Hall. What sounded like a Bon Jovi concert was actually a super successful entrepreneur getting fired up to deliver his keynote talk at the University of Guelph.

Ryan Smoklin, CEO and founder of Smoke’s Poutinerie, was once like the students sitting in front of him. He was born and raised in Pickering, Ontario and went to school at Wilfrid Laurier University. He now spends his days travelling North America, inspiring entrepreneurship!

There wasn’t an empty seat in the house. Students were eagerly waiting to hear about his journey on how he turned fries, curds and gravy into a global franchise worth millions of dollars – with one clear message on how he did it.
“Smoke’s Poutinerie is not just fries, curds and gravy.  It is a brand and it is an experience” says Smolkin.

His commitment to his brand is very clear when you look at him. Smolkin is dressed in a red plaid jacket with “trouble maker” on the back, a red plaid hat and aviator sunglasses.
Other than his strategic approach to branding, Smolkin attributes his success to hard work, common sense, surrounding himself with the right people and not being afraid to try new ideas!

The room of students were captivated every step of the way as he told the story of the first ever “World Poutine Eating Championship”. It started with a couple dozen of his friends around a table and then grew a few years later to 20,000 people going to Yonge-Dundas square in Toronto, with 8,000 poutines served, 100 million media impressions made and $250,000 raised for charity. 

“What struck the chord for me was the passion that he brought to the table and the importance of having a clear brand identity” said Jacob Elliot a fifth-year marketing student in attendance.
 “His passion was infectious. He made me feel empowered to pursue my dreams” stated Jacob Saynor, a first-year student.

What was also made clear for students was how the landscape has changed within entrepreneurial education at Universities.  Smolkin said, “I didn’t have any support when I was graduating, there was nothing like the (entrepreneurship) programs they have now.”

Campuses are now equipped to support student entrepreneurs! The John F. Wood Centre for Business and Student Enterprise (The Wood Centre) is the innovation and entrepreneurship hub at the University of Guelph. We support aspiring entrepreneurs by providing them with funding, mentorship and access to advisory services to help them bring an idea to life!

The Manager of the Hub Incubator program, Tyler Zemlak, could not have been more thrilled to host Ryan Smolkin “To have a celebrity entrepreneur come here and help inspire and teach our students is just amazing,” he said. “It’s the perfect way to kickoff the semester and I’m excited to start meeting all the entrepreneurs in attendance who now know about the resources that are available to them”.

Don’t miss your chance to become the next Ryan Smolkin! Do you have a business idea but not sure what to do next? Send us an e-mail and we will help YOU, bring your idea to life!

News Archive

News Topics