Lean on Me: Support for Small Business Owners to Navigate the Road Ahead

Lessons from the Whistler Open Forum

Getting an enterprise off the ground is a great accomplishment. Once a business venture gets traction to grow or become a market leader, entrepreneurs are often faced with a crossroad. When business owners are uncertain which path to choose, advice and mentorship can break down barriers and offer clarity.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are cornerstones of the Canadian economy. According to a BDC study, successful SMEs have a few things in common: these businesses innovate, ask for outside advice and have a plan to measure progress. The entrepreneurs behind the most successful SMEs don’t figure everything out on their own, they often reach outside of their core team, circle of friends and family to find unbiased and industry-specific support for the next phase of their business.

During Small Business Week, the Whistler Open Forum showcased these local leaders to share personal stories of how mentorship and partnership helped them dream bigger and accomplish more than they ever thought possible.

The power of partners and mentors

A few years ago, Louise and Bob Van Engelsdorp had a vision to bring Epsom salt float pods to Whistler. A new trend at the time, this sensory deprivation experience required a large capital investment but was a tough sell for a typical lending institution. After hearing about non-profit Community Futures Howe Sound, Louise called to pitch her idea. They coached her to a stronger business plan and soon after, a deal was struck and West Coast Float opened its doors in December 2013. For Louise, the road to becoming an entrepreneur has been full of twists and turns, but Community Futures has continued to provide invaluable mentorship and guidance along the way.

When Nicolette Richer made the leap from policy developer to entrepreneur, she did so with a clear vision, solid business plan and an incredible amount of energy fueled by green juice. The Green Moustache moved forward using her own savings, creative bootstrapping, a retail partnership with 3 Singing Birds and an investment from Futurpreneur. Over the last two decades, non-profit Futurpreneur has provided financing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18 through 39 across Canada. With their advice, Nicolette expanded to a second location in Vancouver and is collaborating with an expert to accelerate growth across North America through a franchise model.

Co-Founders Joe Facciolo and Skai Dalziel already had a successful business, Whistler Tasting Tours, when they decided to pivot from hospitality into the tech sector with Guusto, a mobile platform that sends food or beverage gifts to your contacts at restaurants in over 250 Canadian cities. Starting with investment and mentorship from Futurpreneur and additional coaching from a tech accelerator, the entrepreneurs then became the first BC-based company to successfully raise funds through equity crowdfunding. Unlike traditional crowdfunding that solicits donations, equity crowdfunding involves startups selling shares directly to investors so Guusto’s early adopters and loyal customers can have a stake in the game. Next up for Joe and Skai: making a pitch for further investment on CBC’s Dragon’s Den November 11.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs need another set of eyes to see the road ahead. These made-in-Whistler successes are textbook examples of how small businesses can launch and thrive with the right level of partnership, investment and mentorship.

Have an idea for a business networking event we should host in Whistler? Contact us and we’ll see if we can line it up at the next Whistler Open Forum.


Leveraging The power of partners and mentors

Launching an enterprise and getting it off the ground is a great accomplishment. Laying a foundation to grow or become a market leader is the next step. Owners often get side-swiped with operational tasks and day-to-day challenges, and by year-end, the plan for next year or the road ahead might be an afterthought. Once a business is off the ground, almost every entrepreneur is faced with a crossroad. When you’re stuck and don’t know which path is the way forward, outside advice and mentorship can break down barriers and offer clarity.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the cornerstone of the Canadian economy. Those SMEs that are successful have a few things in common according to a BDC study of small business. The top three predictors of success: innovate, ask for outside advice and have a plan to measure your progress.

Top 3 predictors of SME success: innovate, ask for outside advice, have a plan to measure progress @BDC_News Click To Tweet

At the next Whistler Open Forum during Small Business Week, hear personal stories of how partnerships helped local business owners dream bigger, aim higher and accomplish more than they ever thought was possible.

Get inspiration from our panel of entrepreneurs who have leveraged partnerships and investment to gain recognition, create opportunities and achieve excellence in their industries.

After this event, walk away with practical ideas and tips to:

  • Attract the right partners to move forward and achieve business objectives;
  • Harvest your potential through mentorship on best practices, shared knowledge and meaningful connections;
  • Better understand options for financial support, whether through traditional institutions or alternative investors.

Join Seeds Consulting, Lighthouse Visionary Strategies and Local Whistler as we get the inside track on the power of partnerships, mentoring and investment from these Whistler-based business owners:

The panel will share their lessons learned from opening a new flotation therapy experience in Whistler, launching a juice bar that is expanding through with franchisees, and advancing growth of a gift-giving app through a unique crowdfunding model.

Over the past five years, the Open Forum Speaker Series has offered the business community something a little different. Our mission is to offer intimate, compelling and authentic events that inspire, support and connect entrepreneurs. Every entrepreneurial leader who attends walks away with tangible tools they can apply to their business venture. These tools don’t just sit on the corner of someone’s desk since Open Forum events are enhanced with meaningful connections and networking opportunities to create support and build confidence propel their business forward.

Space is limited so reserve your seat today!

Date/Time:  Wednesday, October 21 / 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Location:  Nita Lake Lodge Library

Tickets: Don’t miss out. Click here to purchase.


Creating impact beyond the bottom line

Social EntrepreneurshipA growing number of entrepreneurs are starting ventures designed to create a positive social impact. They are looking for authentic ways for their businesses to become the best for the world, not just the best in the world. These are for-profit enterprises that solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, often with a relatively simple solution. It’s a movement that’s worth watching in your own community and across the world.

In British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor, the Social Venture Challenge is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to encourage, support and grow new social ventures in the region. After submitting a one-page application, shortlisted entrepreneurs learned how to flush out business ideas, were mentored from experts in their field and were coached how to pitch their venture idea.

Around the world, businesses are not only looking for bottom line financial success, but bigger picture impact. A study at the recent New Metrics Conference hosted by Sustainable Brands revealed six types of capital that can drive the success (or failure) of a business: Financial, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Human and Natural. If any one of these areas is weak (e.g. high turnover at a company that does not invest in its human capital), the whole enterprise can suffer.

Big banks, investors and global brands are also paying attention to the social venture movement. Speaking at the World Economic Forum this year, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, stated that

“Social entrepreneurs are role models, not only for young entrepreneurs, but, more importantly, for businesses like us. We can’t address in our business model many important societal issues if we don’t link up firmly with the creativity and passion and purpose-driven models of social entrepreneurs.”

More and more, we’re seeing that a company’s higher purpose is what gets people fired up to become loyal advocates for certain brands. This is evident not only for core customers, but a growing workforce that is looking for more than a paycheque. Research conducted by the Cone Millennial Cause group showed that 80% of young workers want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. They also are willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work.

young workers willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work Click To Tweet

But passion and purpose are just some of the many elements that make up a successful venture. As a judge at a recent ‘Angel Den’ for the Social Venture Challenge in Whistler, I was able to help the cohort test their plan and perfect their pitch. Their enthusiasm makes it easy to love these ideas, but the business fundamentals surrounding the value proposition, revenue model and marketing approach are all essential to build a sound foundation and platform for a successful launch.

Their big event, the final pitch in the challenge, is coming up September 30 in Whistler. It’s being organized as a fun, fast-paced Dragons’ Den style event where participants in The Social Venture Challenge will pitch their burgeoning business ideas. Judges will be awarding the winning social venture with $3,000 start up cash, courtesy of Squamish Savings. Learn more at www.whistlercentre.ca

The entrepreneur’s journey is never an easy one. Embedding a social or environmental problem in the business model is even more challenging. Being able to tell the story of that journey and how the business can make a difference in the world is often the best way to market the brand and build your tribe. Need some help packaging that story to share with the world? Contact us to get started. We love working with purpose-driven brands that are ready to build a movement.

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