Photo by Shane Marmel
Futurpreneur Manitoba is the national organization’s strongest division per capita. That’s thanks to a lot of creative Manitoban entrepreneurs, and a busy staff which includes director Joelle Foster, who works tirelessly to help jumpstart local businesses.
The support for local entrepreneurs seems to be widespread – a recent Futurpreneur roundtable event, called Action Entrepreneurship, invited input from the business community and was the most attended of any of the other provinces or territories.
The second annual forum was held at The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre with key members of the business community, young entrepreneurs, supporters and government representatives brainstorming ideas for the organization’s action plan. Futurpreneur assists young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 39 with funding, mentorship and support tools to help them grow successful businesses.
This year’s topic was an item that the organization identified as its biggest challenge last year: supporting young businesses’ growth.
Futurpreneur Canada has been able to champion many successful business launches, to help instill confidence and competence in its entrepreneurs, and to help educate them and arm them with the experience they need to run a business. However, small business growth saw the least progress in all of its identified missions.
The event began with a panel of young entrepreneurs from various sectors: Zach Wolff, co-founder and CEO of Exigence Technologies; Stefan Maynard, co-founder of Bold Innovation Group; and Alex Ethans, co-founder and operator of Eph Apparel.
Growth has different meanings
For each, growth means very different things. Exigence has a specialized technology in the medical field that destroys microbes and prevents infections in healthcare settings; it is planning to add seven members to the company this year. Bold struggles with rapidly outgrowing its office space year after year in opposition to long lease agreements and pricey renovations; the e-commerce specialists continue to add staff, new app developments and large international clients to their docket.
Eph Apparel, the custom suit retailer, just completed its third consecutive year of growing revenue by 100 per cent, and now boasts 23 direct sales reps across Canada which will help it expand into the national market and test out a new retail stream.
Their panel discussion helped set the stage for the first roundtable question: Why is it important for young entrepreneurs to grow their business?
Our table, which featured a student engagement coordinator from a local school division, a Grade 12 student, a representative from Junior Achievement of Manitoba, a woman from the agribusiness field and a young entrepreneur, went to work debunking the question.
What does growth mean for different businesses? What should it look like?
When the results were tabulated on-screen, we learnt that our entrepreneur-of-the-moment, Jen Gower of A Dog’s Reflection, had been the first in any of the national discussions to mention that growth should be organic, and not come at the expense of the quality of any services.
She was proud of the thorough attention and intimacy she offers to pet owners as a trainer and groomer, and didn’t want to sacrifice that at the expense of growth.
So – why is growth important?
Well, we know that many of the helpful services like Futurpreneur and Startup Winnipeg are looking to assist scalable enterprises – businesses that will create jobs and benefit the economy, most importantly. Certainly, the future also depends on young entrepreneurs to drive innovation and become the role models for other entrepreneurs-to-be – and sometimes it’s best to assume the risk while you’re young.
However, attendees also came up with a number of deterrents that might be getting in the way: fear of failure/risk aversion, struggle to build the right relationships, shortage of time or energy, lack of resources, lack of communication and brand recognition in the new market, lack of knowledge of new market opportunities, navigating regulation and red tape, and difficulty finding and retaining the right talent.
All of these astute observations will find their way into Futurpreneur’s action plan, and will help Manitoba’s young entrepreneur community pull itself even further ahead of the herd to stay.