(This story is sponsored by Futurpreneur Canada.)
The pandemic has brought uncertainty and endless challenges to the small businesses based in B.C. Owners have had to pivot their models and adjust products and services in order to stay afloat. Through this, we’ve learned that B.C. entrepreneurs are resilient, adaptable, and dedicated.
Futurpreneur Canada has been helping young entrepreneurs navigate this ever-changing business landscape since COVID-19 began in March. But the national nonprofit organization has been supporting and fuelling the entrepreneurial passions of young Canadians way before the pandemic struck.
Since 1996, Futurpreneur Canada has assisted more than 13,400 young Canadian entrepreneurs with successfully bringing their business concepts and dreams to fruition.
This is done through mentorship, providing online resources, prelaunch coaching, and financing. Entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 to 39 are eligible to receive up to $60,000 in financing from Futurpreneur Canada and its partner, the Business Development Bank of Canada.
“We support the next generation to flourish, pursue their dreams, and explore their creativity,” says Andrea Welling, B.C. regional director at Futurpreneur Canada.
Once an applicant is admitted to the program, they are paired with a mentor who will help support and guide them through the process of starting their business. Mentors are matched based on location and background knowledge, and will be available to the entrepreneur for two years.
“The mentor can help fill the gaps in their business plan, whether it’s financial literacy, networking, human resources, growing a customer base, or importing and exporting,” says Welling. “Whatever the gap or issue is, the mentor will be there to help them figure it out.”
Similar to the majority of other businesses, Futurpreneur Canada had to shift and adjust its services when the pandemic began. This included the launch of an online forum where members could connect with others.
“The new online community is a safe place where entrepreneurs can come together, discuss their challenges, keep each other motivated, and talk about pivoting,” says Welling. “We have had some guest speakers visit the online forum to talk about different topics like increasing e-commerce presence, working with technology, how to manage staff, and accessing other grants and financing.”
Futurpreneur Canada entrepreneur Lanna Lucas, the founder of Hunters Specialty Foods, relied on her mentor’s support and expertise when her business was faced with pandemic-related challenges. Lucas started with a local Business to Business (B to B) model but when COVID hit, her company needed to promptly move to a Business to Consumer model (B to C) to deliver to home cooks across B.C.
Now that more consumers can access their product, interest has been coming in from across the country, opening up a whole new export model. Lucas and her team worked hard to get the word out on social media about their new business model.
Lucas mentioned that she could not have done it without the invaluable help from her Futurpreneur mentor.
“Carolyn has become a friend and mentor for life. When I’m having a bad day or things get hard, she’s definitely the first person I reach out to without hesitation. She deserves the recognition for all the work she has done in helping me launch my business. I’ll never really be able to repay her.”
The number of young people embracing entrepreneurship has been climbing as traditional employment becomes less stable. Startups in Futurpreneur Canada programs jumped nearly 40 percent in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year.
“Futurpreneur Canada is here to support young entrepreneurs in taking their businesses to the next level, to grow, and to flourish,” says Welling. “While there are reasons to be concerned about the future, the work I do always reminds me that there is so much hope for the future.”
For more information on how Futurpreneur Canada can support your entrepreneurship journey or to apply online, visit www.futurpreneur.ca/.