Having given myself a deadline of next week to complete the illustrations for the new story I’m writing for my grandchildren, I’ve been busy the past few days drawing, erasing, drawing, erasing, and – finally – colouring. (Eventually I’ll Photoshop them to death.)
This is the second story in a mystery series about two kids who decide to start a detective agency to solve some mysteries in their neighbourhood. It dawned on me as I was colouring this afternoon that these two young detectives are child entrepreneurs. They got the idea to do detective work all by themselves, they set up their office, and they handed out business cards to build their business. Pretty entrepreneurial! Based on this sudden brainwave, I decided to explore this topic a bit further.
My own involvement with innovation and entrepreneurship has been with the IT industry, and my role has been one of support, delivered with admiration. For some reason I always supposed that young people would aspire to a chosen vocation and would then hope to work for an existing company or contribute to the public sector. But of course, this is just one option; the one I knew, the one I followed. The more I stop and think, the more I realize that there are examples all around me of people who have chosen the entrepreneurial route, and some very close to me at that. How did they get their inspiration, where did they get their courage?
I am limiting the following examples to enterprises owned and operated by a small but mighty sample of women I know; the diversity of undertakings shows how broad the opportunities can be:
- Remsoft, a Canadian provider of asset management and asset optimization solutions for forestry, natural resource and infrastructure assets, and headquartered in Fredericton, New Brunswick, was co-founded in 1992 by award-winning co-CEO Andrea Feunekes.
- Innovatia is a large and successful knowledge management and training services company headquartered in Saint John, New Brunswick, whose president and CEO, Roxanne Fairweather, bought out Bell-Aliant with a business partner to become the co-owner of a now privately-held company.
- Money Coaches Canada is a national network of financial professionals—skilled and credible financial experts with a range of professional training and accreditations, providing advice and support rather than financial products. Headquartered in Vancouver, it is the second venture undertaken by co-founder and CFO Sheila Walkington. Sheila left her job as financial analyst with a large bank to go out on her own.
- The Genteel, a unique and exciting daily online magazine launched in September 2011, takes a fresh approach to fashion and design editorial, providing thoughtful and intelligent stories in an international arena. Its COO and editor-at-large, Irene Kim, left her position as a lawyer in a downtown Toronto law firm to be part of this start-up. She hasn’t looked back.
- Santé Universelle, a physiotherapy and sports injury enterprise with 4 clinics in the Ottawa area, is co-owned and co-managed by physiotherapist Marie-Claire Holland, who also contributes as an athletic therapist for the Canadian blind sports teams for the Paralympic Games. More work, but more satisfaction.
- Stiletto Consulting is a strategic planning and management consulting company started by Laura O’Blenis, who decided to take her considerable experience in business and economic development in new directions. She has developed an interesting business model with flexible partnerships.
- AutismPro, a web-based therapy program for families with autistic children, was developed at Virtual Expert Clinics, a Fredericton, New Brunswick company founded by speech pathologist Cynthia Howroyd.
You get the idea: there are many examples you can find of people who have taken their ideas and gone out on their own. This path is uncertain, it’s scary, it’s exciting, and it’s incredibly rewarding. Just ask them.
One more thought on how to open children’s minds to the possibility of an entrepreneurial future comes from an approach shared by one of my fellow bloggers, LifeRevelation, who happens to be a grandfather as well as a blogger: “Because I do business coaching I occasionally take my grandson with me (with the owner’s permission) to observe how businesses work. He gets to go behind the scenes at manufacturing plants, bakeries, delis, running and cycling stores, car detail shops, and others. He loves it. He sees it as Grandpa and him going on a big adventure. As we travel to the business I tell him what they do and give him a few ideas on what to look for. When we are at the business and he sees what I have mentioned his face lights up and he is quick to let me know he has discovered it. Not only is he learning, but we are creating lasting memories both of us will cherish.” Thanks, Steve. I love this idea.