The Canadian Youth Business Foundation has selected 30 dynamic young Canadian entrepreneurs to form the official Canadian delegation at the G20 Young Entrepreneur Summit (G20 YES) in Nice, France on October 31-November 2, 2011. The G20 YES is an annual international summit that brings together dedicated and influential entrepreneurs of the G20 countries. Lisa von Sturmer is a Canadian delegate.
Why I became an entrepreneur:
In my previous career in television, I often found myself wishing that I was working on projects that were contributing something positive in the world (which was rarely the case). I started Growing City because I wanted to spend my time and energy growing something that not only gave back to the community but that I could be proud of. It was really important to me that the company be good for the environment and the community. I was determined to prove that a business built with sustainability in mind could also be profitable and hopefully could inspire others to start projects of their own. I loved the idea of building my dream work environment and a big part of that was getting involved in the community. I’ve always been passionate about volunteering and I really wanted to make it a part of Growing City.
I finally decided to take the first step and actually develop a business plan after I experienced the “glass ceiling” at a previous employer (an MMA fight show). I was taken off of a shoot location because I was a woman and my boss felt that fights were “no place for a lady”. I was told that by him directly and the experience was enough to make me promise myself I would never feel that kind of limitation or frustration ever again. As an entrepreneur, you have many challenges and responsibilities but the only person that can impede your growth and success is yourself. Despite the feelings that came with it, I would never take back that moment because it forced me to look for other options. I chose to react in an exciting and positive way – by becoming an entrepreneur, and I’ve never looked back!
Once I knew I wanted to start a business and after I had encouraged my best friend to become my business partner, I needed to find an idea that would fit my dream business model. It took a while to find the right one. Eventually inspiration came from Savary Island where a group of friends and I were staying for a week. Due to the island’s small size, recycling and composting are mandatory there. I was amazed by how little garbage was left at the end of the week! That was my first real experience with composting and it left a serious impression. When I went back to the studio, I was shocked by the amount of compostable items going into the garbage and I felt guilty about it. When my partner and I started trying to research solutions, we found there weren’t any other companies offering composting services. That was when we had our Eureka moment – we knew it was something people would do if we could make it simple, clean and convenient. From that moment, the seeds for Growing City were sown!
My best moment as an entrepreneur, my success:
I was recently made an official nominee for a 2011 YWCA Women of Distinction Entrepreneur award. It was such a surprising and awe-inspiring moment for me to see the other women listed in my category and have my name included on the list. Being at the ceremony with the other nominees and having the opportunity to meet such influential and talented women really put all the hardships of our first year of operations into perspective – these women all went through the same experience and flourished. It reaffirmed that I had made the right decision to become and entrepreneur. I felt inspired and motivated by the experience to continue to grow my business while working with the community. It strengthened my drive and gave me a boost of energy and inspiration during a very difficult time when I had to buy out my former partner. I would say that it was a pivotal moment for me – a real turning point – where I realized that I wanted to succeed in business and not only win a Women of Distinction award at some point, but to also do my part in shattering what’s left of the “glass ceiling”.
My next challenge:
Over the last year, we have grown about 100%. We lost some revenue from hiring a business consultant, but the objective was to improve operational efficiency and scalability. Part of our plans for the next year is – of course – focusing on increasing our top line. We will be opening two more local routes and will then start the process of opening a Toronto location. After the successful launch of the Toronto operation, we will then proceed with our franchising objectives. We’ve had several serious offers to purchase franchises over the past year (for both Canadian and US territories). By introducing franchises, we’d like to see our revenues hit $1 M plus by 2014 or sooner. This would enable us to expand our territory in a much quicker time frame. Our main objective beyond opening the Toronto location is to start selling franchises. We’ve hired a consultant to help us structure the company with that aim in mind. We’ve become a very scalable model and are continually streamlining our operations. I envision Growing City being the main supplier for corporate composting needs across Canada. I’d like our brand to be the first name people think of when they think of composting and waste reduction.