Youth mean business. A set of young people, all with aspirations of running their own businesses, have been proving it with time spent with established business owners to learn how to begin.
Youth Mean Business is a province-wide initiative, a pilot project paid for by the provincial government to advance the practical education of these prospective entrepreneurs. There is no better teacher than experience, so putting rookies in the same room with veterans fosters that part of their education, according to program organizers.
Some of those pairs met with the public this week, to talk about their impressions of the fledgling program. James Fraser was paired with Will Cadell, owner of SparkGeo. Christos Sagiorgis was paired with self-employed photographer Chris Purves. Brittany West was assigned to Shauna Harper, proprietor of Live Work PG. Each of these couplings spent weeks together, in informal discussions - the mentors imparting knowledge to the mentees.
"It's nice to have someone with the knowledge when you don't know what to do next," said West. "Without Shauna, I would not have gotten my business plan to the stage it is at today." West is running a service connecting health and beauty customers with last-minute open spots among local service providers. It was a business plan that won a provincial award, through the Youth Mean Business program, the prize being even more mentorship with business professionals.
But the reverse effect was also a positive side effect, said Harper. "I had no idea that mentoring would have such an impact on my own business. The older you get, the more you try to figure out how to keep things the same - build in efficient routines - but Brittany opened my eyes to doing things differently. I was seeing options I never would have noticed had it not been for Brittany."
Cadell agreed, saying "for me, it was the classic 'when you teach something, you learn it better yourself' thing." Cadell's company creates maps and other simplification documents for his customers' complex data. It helps them streamline their business, and/or get their message out to attract more business.
Fraser brought him a plan to build visual flow-charts for people playing the stock market, so they had a way of seeing the parts of their portfolio growing and shrinking before their eyes, to know how to manage their next steps in buying and selling.
"He's got quite the typical startup story: a lot of base expertise, something he was already passionate about, all he needed me for was to ask about building the product. That's what I do. I don't know about market visualizations, but I do know about about how to visualize things on the Web. I think he is on to a good solution so we had a good relationship."
Purves the experienced and Sagiorgis the upstart got along like two snaps from the same camera even though vast stylistic difference stood between the two. They found that mutually inspiring.
"I am an old-school kind of guy, I don't feel my style is current today [and not necessary in his chosen photography genres], so I have learned from Chris, too," said Purves. "Mentorship goes both ways. He's been a good inspiration, and apparently I have been an inspiration to him."
Sagiorgis said he had already learned the basics of the photography tools, so what Purves did most for him was focus instead on how to structure a profitable business model around the craft.
"There is a win-win when you form business relationships," said Vera Beerling, one of the program co-ordinators based at the Community Futures Development Corporation. "As a pilot program, our funding across B.C. comes to an end in October, so we are just waiting to see if the provincial government saw good value to the economy in fostering these relationships and creating these channels of learning good business skills between mentors and mentees."
The program is still taking in new startup upstarts. Beerling can be reached for more information at 250-562-9622 ext. 112 or email her at ve...@cfdc.bc.ca.
The Youth Mean Business program has one more public event on the calendar. The topic of community partnerships and the benefits of networking will be put to a community forum on Oct. 23 at 3 p.m. at UNBC's Bentley Centre. A panel of four will express their views and field public feedback. To be in attendance, RSVP by contacting Beerling, Jolene Shepherd of the United Way 250-561-1040 ext. 104 or UNBC's MAria Trujillo 250-960-6426.