Business Beat; How do you train to be an entrepreneur?

Columnist Mary Austin delves into entrepreneurialism in this week's Business Beat.

Mary Austin is an active Board Member for both Community Futures and the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS). She is the Chair of the Lower Columbia Tech Club and the Lower Columbia Women’s Business Club. She is also co-owner of Austin Engineer Ltd. and feels fortunate everyday to be able to live and work with her family in this community.

How do you train to be an entrepreneur?

What skill sets tie together professional, retail or industrial businesses? At what age can you learn these skills? Here in the Lower Columbia region, we are very fortunate to have two skilled organizations 100 per cent focused in answering these questions: Junior Dragons Den and Junior Achievement BC.

Back in 2014, John Reed, a local serial entrepreneur, pitched Community Futures Greater Trail on a youth business skills competition that would replicate the famous “Dragons Den” many of us enjoy on TV. “Junior Dragons Den” was originally for students grades 8-12 and has now expanded to include local college and university students. John pitched his idea to Community Futures as way to expose students to the rigours of having their business idea put in front of skilled business professionals.

The program has been a huge success, with other Community Futures including Central Kootenay, Revelstoke, Boundary and Cranbrook all now participating. Students are mentored to develop a strong business plan for their idea by business leaders. In John’s words “it’s especially important to expose youth to this mind set and skill set early on in their academic career and to instil the adage that anything is possible with a little planning (or a lot in certain instances)!”

John notes that since 2015 there have been many local success stories who started in the program. Eric Gonzales, formerly of Fruitvale, won the competition twice is now a 3rd year business student at the University of Calgary while running his thriving video production company. Jordan Strobel, another past winner, is a 2nd year business student at Selkirk College while running two businesses.

This year, the program grew again through partnership with a province-wide program called Junior Achievement BC. Generously sponsored by Columbia Basin Trust, JABC teaches financial literacy skills even earlier in life, spanning grades 5-12. Don Freschi, GM of Trail’s Community Future raves about this opportunity for youth: [Junior Achievement’s] “Be Entrepreneurial program is designed for the classroom and covers everything from finance to product development and is the perfect 4-hour prep course for students when preparing their business concept pitch.” Meagan Noel, our Kootenay-Columbia JA Coordinator, notes that JABC seeks to foster “inspired, innovative and entrepreneurial leadership that BC needs to keep our economy thriving, by connecting business to youth and education.”

This year, for the first time, JABC and Junior Dragons Den are teaming up to deliver young entrepreneurs with comprehensive business training prior to the competition. All Dragon’s Den competitors will have the opportunity to participate in the Be Entrepreneurial program in advance so that they have an advantage on the big night and with eventual success their final product or service.

For more information about JABC’s classroom programs please contact Meagan Noel at Meagan.noel@jabc.org or visit jabc.ca. To learn more about the Dragons Den Competition and how these two organizations are combining resources contact John Reed at john@communityfutures.com or visit juniordragonsden.ca. We are looking forward to this year’s competition-and meeting the next generation of business leaders!

Mary Austin is an active Board Member for both Community Futures and the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS). She is the Chair of the Lower Columbia Tech Club and the Lower Columbia Women’s Business Club. She is also co-owner of Austin Engineer Ltd. and feels fortunate everyday to be able to live and work with her family in this community.