With the changing face of work in Canada, a growing number of young Canadians are considering forging their own paths. In fact, according to a new poll by RBC, 70% of millennials have contemplated business ownership — and 53% are already participating in the side gig economy.
Motivated by a desire for control over their careers, millennials are poised to drive — and expand — the small business economy. At a recent RBC Disruptors event, young entrepreneurs Braden Ream and Julia Kirouac offered up their first-hand experiences as millennial founders. In conversation with RBC’s John Stackhouse, they provided insight into how and why youth can work in your favour in the start-up space.
Here Are Five Reasons Entrepreneurship Can Be a Great Path for Millennials:
1. It’s the Easiest Job to Get
Young entrepreneur Braden Ream is CEO and co-founder of Voiceflow, which builds tools to help people design, prototype and build voice interfaces. “You can decide at any moment to start a business,” says Ream.
“The key is to start,” he says. “I never called myself an entrepreneur,” but he focused on the apps and side projects he started — and continued building them over a long period of time. Eventually, he started his own business.
Julia Kirouac, founder and CEO of Nu Fud, is on a mission to improve the way people eat, and produces organic, plant-based Paleo snacks. Kirouac’s first career was as a successful ballet dancer, but after injuries forced her to retire, she had the confidence to take an unconventional path. “I was basically unemployable,” she says. But in all seriousness, she found that upon her return to Canada (after living out of the country for years), grocery stores were stocked with too much processed, sugary food. She felt she could do better. “I didn’t think a lot about it,” she says. “I saw a need to do this for humanity, and decided to give it a go. No one says, ‘Where do I apply to be an entrepreneur?'”
2. You’re Not Held Back by past Business Experiences
When you start a business in your twenties, you’re naïve, Julia says. “But naïveté works in your favour — you don’t know what you’re getting into.” You’re not held back by experience and insight into what could go wrong. There isn’t the same fear in getting started.
“If we were business savvy, we wouldn’t have started creating interactive children’s stories,” adds Ream (his first foray into voice interfaces). But, that venture led to the creation of Voiceflow — so without that trial and error, his company wouldn’t exist today.
Having said that, Ream admits that not knowing some things — like whether he needed a UX researcher or a sales person — meant reaching out to people who have been here before him. Mentors, he says, are a crucial element of success.
3. You Have the Flexibility to Fail
Among the strengths of being a young entrepreneur, Ream and Kirouac agree that younger entrepreneurs can take chances they may not feel able to take later in life. “One of the big things is: you don’t have to live on much. You can live at home and pay yourself $12,000/ year. This is not something you can do later in life,” explains Ream. What’s more, people won’t judge you when you’re in your twenties, and you have a gap on your resume.
Plus, you can fail and keep on going. “There is a stigma around failure,” Kirouac says. “But it’s actually amazing to fail because you learn so much more from failures than successes — especially if you lose money. You never forget those failures. They make you better and more resilient.”
With a mortgage, kids, a dog and partner, it may be more difficult to take chances, absorb failures, and pick up and try again.
4. You Have Youthful Resilience
From Mark Zuckerberg to Steve Jobs, Bill Gates to Albert Einstein, some of the world’s most innovative thinkers did their greatest work in their early twenties. “You have that creative spark, a lot of energy, and the ability to dream further into the future when you’re young …” Ream points out. “Because you have more of it in front of you.”
While neither Ream nor Kirouac suggest skimping on sleep, both admitt that sacrificing personal time, relationships, and a solid 8-hours a night makes starting a company a grind. When you’re young, you’ve got more energy and flexibility to put in the time needed to get your company off the ground.
5. You Can Find Resources Dedicated to Youth
Youth are the future of Canada. The good news is, there are several programs available to youth for early-stage ventures and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Next 36, for instance, a program out of Next Canada, accelerates the growth of Canada’s young entrepreneurs by providing mentorship, capital, and founder development.
Each year, Next 36 chooses 36 young Canadians who are in their final two years of study at university or college, or who have graduated within the past two years. The program challenges these innovators to build a new business venture, or iterate and scale an existing idea with enormous potential. For eight months, these young entrepreneurs are mentored by successful Canadian entrepreneurs and business leaders, and guided to seek funding from top investors to start their companies.
Futurpreneur Canada is another program that supports young entrepreneurs aged 18 – 39 with up to $60,000 in financing, an expert business mentor, and resources to help you plan, manage and grow your business. BDC also has a young entrepreneur program, offering financing up to $100,000, business coaching and online resources.
When the path ahead isn’t clear, it may be a good time to make your own. Fortunately, young people in this country have the creativity, flexibility and resources available to take action on their ideas.
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