No Shortcuts in Bagel-making. . . or Life

Students at Perspectives 1, an EMSB outreach school, had an inspiring lesson on entrepreneurship and hard work from Vince Morena, a co-owner of Montréal’s famed St-Viateur Bagel. Exposing students to a local success story is one way GOAL contributes to their self-discovery and career exploration.

– By Travis Hall

Perspectives 1 students with some tasty bagels

Perspectives 1 staff and students with some tasty bagels

Vince Morena’s family has been in the bagel-making business for more than 50 years. His father, Joe, started learning the trade in 1962 at the age of 15, and Vince and his brothers have been working alongside him since their early teens. Today, they serve Montréal bagel lovers through seven retail outlets and a food truck. They also sell their product across Canada and the United States via their online website.

Vince spoke candidly to the Perspectives 1 students about the trials of being a business owner in a competitive market. He told them about the effort it has taken to go from a single bakery to a sought-after brand that delivers bagels across borders. “Life is about progression,” he explained. “Success does not happen overnight. My business is 50 years in the making. If you ask me what entrepreneurship means, it means hard work.”

“Life is about progression. Success doesn’t happen overnight.”

Vince Morena: "Life is about progression."

Vince Morena

His honesty was well received by the students, who have experienced their own personal and academic challenges. Some are part of a Secondary III derogation called the “15+ Project,” which introduces them to the vocational trades through career exploration and work practicums. The curriculum also includes a course dedicated to entrepreneurship in which students must participate in developing a product or establishing a service that meets a need in their community.

Mindful of their own upcoming entrepreneurial projects—and with help from their teacher Barbara White and their work coordinator Elisa Ruffini—the students prepared a list of questions for the St-Viateur Bagel co-owner. They asked how he had managed when his business faced difficult times and what business decisions he was most proud of. They also asked what advice he would give them on starting a business.

“Do your best and pay attention”

His answers made it clear there are no short cuts in life. “Experience is priceless,” he told them. “If you want to do something, start now! You may have to start as a dishwasher. Do your best and pay attention. Soon you will be asked to help with food preparation. Next you may have the chance to be a chef. Good hard work never goes unnoticed.”

Elisa Ruffini is always on the watch for positive role models she can invite to meet with students—especially local individuals with whom the students can identify. “It gives the students hope when they see examples of people who have made it and what it took for them to do it. They start to understand that it’s okay to make mistakes. They can still be that person if they work hard, persevere and believe in themselves.”

Travis Hall is a pedagogical consultant, Career Development, for the English Montréal School Board. He is responsible for GOAL and related areas.

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