United & Free founders with their mentor, Barb

This week Futurpreneur Canada is celebrating National Volunteer Week with the rest of Canada by showing our appreciation for our almost 3,000 volunteer business mentors who work with our young entrepreneurs to help them succeed. To celebrate, we’re sharing some of the stories of our mentor and mentee matches to showcase just how valuable mentors can be to new entrepreneurs.

Brother and sister duo, Brandon and Kaleena Morrison decided to start their own business, UNITED & FREE when Brandon was inspired when he was growing his beard and realized there were no products out there for him and his needs. Kaleena at the time had become a new mom and started experiencing major skin and hair issues which she couldn’t find good fragrance free and mild products to help treat. While both were experiencing very different but similar issues, Brandon and Kaleena decided there was a need for the introduction of new natural hair and skincare products in the market. This is where the inspiration came for UNITED & FREE.

UNITED & FREE Skincare is a local Vancouver brand that develops natural hair and skincare that is plant based, vegan and biodegradable. Their products are also free from harsh chemicals, parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes and perfume. Instead, they are scented with essential oils which also add natural benefits to each product.

Brandon and Kaleena grew up in an entrepreneurial household which helped them learn the ins and outs of being your own boss and made them realize the rewards of creating a product and sharing it with people who appreciate it. After applying for the Futurpreneur Canada program, the pair were matched with mentor, Barb Steele, a successful local entrepreneur. Barb has founded, grown and sold several companies in industries ranging from publishing to food/restaurant.

Founders of United and Free, Kaleena and Brandon

More recently Barb had a skincare, haircare and supplement company for 11 years in Vancouver which she sold products to 100 independent pharmacies and a large pharmacy chain. Currently she is Director of Business Development for Canada Financial, a financial services company. She also works with her business partner, Clarence Chew of Social Insights, a successful B2C social media company in business development. “Somehow I always seem to be involved in new businesses,” Barb explained. That’s why there is no surprise when Barb decided to give back by volunteering as a mentor for Futurpreneur. After volunteering in several different ways in her community like at soup kitchens, fundraising, etc. she realized mentorship was the most effective use of her volunteer time because she was able to utilize her knowledge and background to make a real different with new entrepreneurs.

Brandon and Kaleena are living proof of Barb’s impact. “Since having her as our mentor we’ve been more focused and our goals have been more defined,” the pair explained. “She’s given us the ability to not only see the future of the business but also to set a path forward and know what to expect. At the end of every meeting we set goals to accomplish for the next week and are held accountable for these goals.” With this sort of support and push from Barb, Kaleena and Brandon have been able to move their business forward.

Not only has this been beneficial for the UNITED & FREE founders but Barb has also found that being a mentor has been fun, exciting, creative and intellectually stimulating. She understands that being an entrepreneur can be a lonely business and as a mentor she is able to be there for new entrepreneurs when they need it the most. Mentoring has also given Barb the opportunity to reflect on the advice she is giving to Brandon and Kaleena to ensure she is doing it in her own business ventures. “It forces you to walk the talk,” she says.

Barb suggest that in order for you to have as rewarding of a mentor and mentee relationship like her with Brandon and Kaleena there are some things that you need to do:

  • Have relevant background and experience to the mentee so that you can provide valuable feedback and relevant advice.
  • You need to agree on the terms of the engagement with one another from the beginning like how often you will talk, whether you will meet in person, by phone or skype, and the kind of assistance or mentorship required.
  • You have to like each other in order for the relationship to have trust, creativity and fun.

Barb has made a significant impact on Brandon and Kaleena’s business, UNITED & FREE. The pair explains that originally they were flying by the seat of their pants and didn’t really have a strategy in place. However, now they have set specific goals and track their progress weekly.

If you’re interested in becoming a mentor with Futurpreneur or interested in interested in our financing and mentorship program for entrepreneurs aged 18-39, click here.

Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada