student entrepreneur photos

May 4, 2007

Good time for the planner TheStar.com – Life – Good time for the planner

The party is always hot and hopping at UniversityParty.ca

May 01, 2007


toronto star
It’s 11 on a Friday night and the party at Grace O’Malley’s is in full swing. Paper hat-clad revellers celebrate a 20th birthday in a corner, and on the dance floor girls shimmy to a deejay while St. Catharines college band Opus Road warms up onstage.

Another party is underway across the Entertainment District, where a line-up forms outside Cantina Charlies. Inside, the three-storey tropical theme bar is packed with plastic palm trees and people getting drunk on foot-long slushy drinks.

TV screens feature messages texted in by bar patrons and, in a corner, a shampoo company has a booth where patrons can project their smiling faces and well-coiffed heads on the wall.

Overlooking the throng, University Party photographer Bernard Leung snaps shots of a posing couple on the balcony. A shooter girl dressed as a nurse interrupts to scold Leung. “Where were you last week? We missed you!”

Leung shrugs. He was busy snapping pictures at other bars for his boss Daniel Warner, the 23-year-old founder of UniversityParty.ca, the largest student website in Canada, with 7.5 million hits each month.

Warner is not at the bar. In fact, he seldom gets to the Entertainment District these days. He’s busy gunning for 2007 Student Entrepreneur of the Year, a national award that recognizes the business movers and shakers of tomorrow.

So instead of partying, the BlackBerry-toting Warner spends most of his time in class or in his office in the basement of his parents’ Richmond Hill home. He leaves it to his “point people” to mingle at the UniversityParty.ca hit list bars and sponsored events, including the Van Wilder 2 DVD promotion party at Gracie’s last month.

“This is by far the best job I’ve had,” says Leung, 27, grinning as he’s interrupted by people who want to know when their pics will be posted on the UniversityParty.ca website. “It’s not hard to make friends in this job.”

The site’s motto is, “We remember what happened last night, so you don’t have to,” but those who do remember are encouraged to log in and tag the photos that depict their boozy attempts to bring sexy back.

Every night, Leung tours the bars, taking photos and handing out flyers for UniversityParty.ca, or UP.ca for short. Meanwhile, Warner is hard at work arranging for companies to sponsor student events and advertise on the UP site, tailored to campuses across Ontario and most provinces.

With plans to expand the two-year-old website – which has more than 25,000 members and already includes social networking aspects similar to MySpace – and about a half-dozen other initiatives aimed at 18- to 25-year-olds in the works, it’s an understatement to say Warner is one busy guy.

“I don’t really think of it as work, which probably keeps me sane,” Warner says with a laugh. “I just get up in the morning and start.”

Warner began the first UniversityParty.ca site after planning frat parties at the University of Western Ontario, where he studied business. He reckons he’s been to hundreds of student events over the years.

“People were asking what was going on, so it was a natural fit to create a website for London students.” Now as owner of UP Media Group Inc., he has 40 employees in 12 cities. He calls the business, soon to be known as Canadianstudentmarketing.com, a one-stop shop for corporations that want that all-important demographic of young people with money.

Warner’s finishing a post-graduate diploma in marketing management at Seneca College and fits in business meetings between exams. While the biggest decision facing students who use his site is deciding which event to attend that night, it’s up to Warner to make the hard decisions, such as to pull the plug on clients not living up to their share of the bargain.

Recently, UP Media Inc. cancelled its official Friday night party at a Toronto club, after the bar defaulted on a cheque, Warner says.

“It’s gotten to a point where we don’t have to bend over backwards for clients who don’t treat us well.” The company isn’t some fly-by-night student outfit, Warner adds.

UP Media Inc. has earned Warner a whack of money – when asked how much, he says: “Put it this way, I wouldn’t have to be in school right now if I didn’t want to” – as well as accolades from the business community.

He’s one of six vying for student entrepreneur of the year at the 2007 Advancing Canadian Entrepreneur National Exposition in Toronto next week.

The award goes to full-time post-secondary students who have founded their own businesses. Hundreds apply each year from across the country.

Judges were impressed by the companies Warner has worked with, such as clothing company Urban Behaviour and, most recently, film and TV company Alliance Atlantis. He’s built a list of 50,000-plus students who signed up to receive email promotions and other info from UniversityParty.ca. Non-profit student groups can advertise for free. Other companies pay for the privilege.

The judges also like that Warner encourages students to Party With a Cause with his PWAC foundation, which has raised more than $25,000 for charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society.

Warner has already advanced through the provincial and central region qualifying rounds for the national award. The top prize for the winning student entrepreneur, to be awarded on May 9, is $10,000 and the opportunity to represent Canada at the international level of competition, the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Sort of like the Miss World pageant for business types.

And if Warner wins you can bet, on that night at least, he’ll be out partying.

“It’ll definitely be time to celebrate. And then, soon after that, back to work. The summer’s going to be intense – all the students are out of school.”

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