BY MINDY CRUMP | PIVOT MAGAZINE WRITER
Taking risks in business can often be what makes or breaks a company. It can be a scary scenario, especially for a new entrepreneur. But when Charles Brun, Co-founder and CEO of Now in Store, looks back on his first years as a startup founder, he says he wishes he’d thrown a bit more caution to the wind.
“I would have learned even faster and gotten to where I am today sooner had I taken more risks,” he says.
Brun isn’t alone.
He is one of thousands of young entrepreneurs across the country who are about to change the Canadian workforce with their desire to push boundaries, be bold, and explore new ways of doing business. They are part of the Millennial generation, 7.3 million Canadians born between 1980 to 1995 who will be taking over the workforce as the baby boomers begin to retire.
According to a recent survey by Intuit Canada, Millennials are two-and-a-half times more likely to start their own business. Intuit polled 400 Millennials across Canada, asking them questions like why they became entrepreneurs, how they got funded, and where they are most likely to operate their businesses.
“It’s far too common to dismiss Millennials as an entitled “me” generation, and to dismiss their approach to the workplace,” said Jeff Cates, managing director of Intuit Canada.
“At Intuit, we think differently. We believe that there is a tremendous opportunity to foster the entrepreneurial spirit of Millennials by giving them the tools they need to succeed.”
To complement Intuit’s study, we chatted with seven up-and-coming Millennial entrepreneurs to learn more about their journey on the road to startup success.
- Charles Brun – Co-founder and CEO, Now in Store
- Amar Sandhu – VP of Strategic Development, Procurify
- Will Tang – Co-founder, FindmyItin
- Miguel Kudry – Founder, HelpHub
- Christine Sommers – CEO and co-founder, ePact
- Matt Friesen – Co-founder, Wantering
- Nigel Rupchand – VP Business Development, Cukie Consulting
When you first started out as an entrepreneur, what was your biggest challenge to overcome?
Creating a routine and building habits as a business owner. For the first time in your life, there are no institutions that provide you a schedule or outline, it is entirely up to you to create the guideline to your goals.
When I first started out I was a 17-year-old telling 30- or 40-year-olds what to do. It was challenging because it’s hard to have authority when you’re so young and inexperienced. In the end, what allowed me to gain credibility was rolling up my sleeves and showing our employees what I was made of.
Our biggest challenge was technology. Our idea seemed incredibly simple when we started, but we soon found out we were pioneering a number of new ways in which we were networking families and organizations together, and dealing with the incredibly complex relationships of today’s family structures was a bit of a shock.
Fear of the unknown! I had a solid career path and made good money, but always felt the pull to go out on my own. It was a difficult decision and I didn’t even know what direction I’d take, but taking the plunge was the best decision I ever made.
One of my biggest challenges was the language barrier. I moved to Vancouver from Venezuela about 4 years ago and barely spoke any English. I wasn’t really talking to or meeting a lot of people at the time.
At the very start my biggest challenge was bringing together all my ideas into one project and making sure they worked coherently. A secondary issue I faced was knowing what I wanted to do or where I’d like to end up; having a variety of options.
I made the typical mistakes that most engineer-minded people make and tried to just build the thing right then and there. But I soon realized I was going about it all wrong. I realized that I needed to get out of the house to learn and network. I discovered an event run by MaRS. It was there that I learned about this mysterious term “Lean Startup” that everyone was using that would then change everything I did with my own startup.
Is there anyone else in your family who’s an entrepreneur? If yes who? Or if you’re the first , how does it feel?
I‘m the first in my family to break out of the traditional mold and venture on my own path. It feels empowering & liberating to control my destiny, however, at the same time it is frightening as I am faced with uncertainty every morning I wake up.
My sister’s an entrepreneur, and she’s actually the one who got me into it. When I was 17 I started working with her on our first restaurant and it really got me into entrepreneurship.
Christine Sommers: My Dad is not really an entrepreneur in the sense of starting a company and product, but ran his own management consulting firm for years. I followed in his footsteps, consulting for a number of years before diving into true startup entrepreneur world. So I am the first in tackling such a crazy, difficult undertaking, but have incredible support/cheering section from family and friends.
Both my dad and his brother were entrepreneurs. I have a lot of respect for both of them and their accomplishments, and I’m proud to follow in their footsteps.
I’m the first one in the family. It’s pretty exciting and scary at the same time.
Both my parents have gone into business for themselves.
I do not come from a very entrepreneurial family. On the contrary, my family is as conservative and risk averse as they come. With that came skepticism and concerns about how this would affect my future and progression towards the typical path parents expect their children to follow. There was some hesitation on my parents’ part but I think ultimately they knew that there was nothing they could say that would change my mind.
Aside from that, I can say that I personally feel pretty damn proud for breaking the mold and trying to do something that most people dream about. The world is changing and it’s time to adapt!
What 3 words best describe the Millenial generation of entrepreneurs?
Technology-savvy. Courageous. Disruptive.
I really don’t believe the Millennial generation of entrepreneurs is any different from other generations. Entrepreneurs are curious, pro-active, opportunity seekers and those are traits that don’t change from one generation to another.
I would say they have greater confidence, less fear of risk, and more openness to change than past generations.
Creative. Connected. Bold.
Naïve. Persistent. Hungry.
Innovative. Resourceful. Ambitious.
Hungry – always hungry for opportunities. Explorers – looking outside the box and not conforming to the expectations of previous generations. Hustlers/Hackers – doing whatever it takes to get sh*t to happen and/or done.
Looking back, what one thing would you do differently?
Nothing. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes and if you continue to look back in regret, it will hinder your progress. Your failures and successes have brought you here… use it as a learning experience. In other words, keep moving forward.
I would have been more bold and less careful!
I would have started selling the product well in advance of it being 100% ready. Sales cycles can be long and by the time we were really happy with the product, we were ready to hit sales hard, but we could have started selling even earlier so that onboarding aligned with product readiness.
It’s pretty hard to choose just one thing, but it’s probably selling my first business too early. It takes a long time to grow a brand and build trust in the industry. If you exit too early, a lot of that hard work can be under valued.
I would’ve tried to be more focused. But I guess that’s been a part of the learning curve.
Looking back I have no regrets, but if I had to do one thing differently that would be doing more market or industry research and speaking with people that could have helped positively influence my business idea.
Not to say that making the leap early to quit my job and travel the world was a bad thing but I think in the very early stages of Find My Itin, I certainly could have held some sort of job to help sustain myself financially. Things weren’t as busy as things are now.
Any comments on Intuit’s survey?
I am extremely excited about the birth of the startup generation, It feels like a movement created by us. We are tired of old processes that no longer work and will use our fresh thinking and ambition to disrupt an industry for the better.
I’m happy to see that on average millennials are more likely to start a business than the average Canadian. It’s a good sign that young Canadians are confident in the future and want to have an impact on the world!
Most of these entrepreneurs will be bootstrapping their ventures with their own funds and so it makes sense that most people are worried about financial security (as depicted in the survey). My belief is that in order to keep the economy healthy the public and private sectors need to support these entrepreneurs through the ups and downs, whether through direct funding, community hubs, incubators/accelerators or mentorship.
You can learn more about these rising stars, and other inspiring Canadian entrepreneurs, through Startup Canada’s 1000 Startups program.
Or to read the complete summary of findings from Intuit’s survey, as well as learn more about their latest offer to give away a free year subscription to Quickbooks, visit the Intuit Blog.