I never wanted to be an entrepreneur, or at least I thought I didn’t. I actually had more than one small business growing up and I never realized that there was anything special or unique about running my own show for a bit of extra coin. When I was 14 I ran a small dog service called “Pooper Scoopers,” where I would clean-up after my neighbours dog’s unmentionables. I also dabbled in a few not so legit activities of “making” bus passes, fake I.D’s, and changing report cards. I am not incredibly proud of my 17 year old self, however I did learn all about maximizing the $1.00 colour photocopying charge at my local library, and that investing in a business comes with an element of risk. In high school when the question was asked,”What do you want to be when you grow up,” there was a kid in my class who responded with, “I am going to be a business man and own some companies.” I remember looking at him with total disgust, why would anyone want to do that? 9 to 5 with 3 weeks holidays was totally where it was at.
Fast forward into my early twenties, that is exactly what I was, “a businessman,” or self-employed as I called myself then. I was, and still am the proud owner of a small aircraft detailing company that mainly serviced corporate jets in Calgary. It was a fast track into business, I owned a company, I had clients to please, employees to manage, problems to solve, and a business that needed to grow in order to survive. With a lot of work (80 plus hrs a week), my little company started to thrive, show profits, and grow.
After a few years of operating Executive Airways Grooming Services I decided it was time to start trying other things, I started a restaurant (which literally imploded on itself), I invested in property and became a landlord, I started a flooring company, to name a few. In 2010 I was approached by Futureprenur Canada (then CYBF), to see if I would be interested in attending the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Summit that was being hosted in Toronto. They needed a panelist to talk about access to financing and how governments and traditional banks could do a better job at funding businesses owned by young entrepreneurs. The ultimate plan was to develop communique to present to the G20 leaders to help influence the roles of government concerning entrepreneurship. I was 7.5 months pregnant at the time, and really didn’t think it was a good time to be flying to Toronto, but one of my mentors said it was a tremendous opportunity and that I should really go. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I agreed and went to my very first G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Summit.
I cannot actually describe my first experience with the summit appropriately. My mind was totally blown. There were hundreds of young, self employed individuals from around the globe who thought and acted like me. They not only had similar experiences like me, but they also encountered many of the same frustrations when it came to dealing with the bureaucratic side of business, including government legislation, access to capital, taxation issues, etc. The summit was eye opening and I left the summit as an entrepreneur and no longer used the self-employed title. Entrepreneur is a proud title that I bought and paid for through thousands of hours of hard work, more risk than I can ever fairly articulate, and failures that would leave me questioning my sanity. I learned who I was at that G20 summit.
I have had the fortunate experience of attending 5 consecutive G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Summit’s. I have met thousands of young entrepreneurs, visited 4 other countries including, France, Mexico, Russia, and Australia. I have spoken, listened, and hopefully influenced local, national,and international government leaders. I have rubbed shoulders with some of today’s greatest business leaders and became friends with tomorrow’s even greater ones. I have been given the opportunity to drive change for future entrepreneurs and I have been inspired to drive that change within myself.
If I could give one message to a young aspiring entrepreneur, it is that entrepreneurs are often isolated, frustrated, and barriers to success seem countless. However, there are thousands of like-minded individuals and when given a platform such as the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Summit, you are given the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded entrepreneurs, and from that comes the building of a global culture of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship becomes inclusive, encouraging, and the barriers to success become challenges to be met. It is time to make your own memories, be inspired, and drive change, apply to be a delegate for Canada at the 2015 G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.
Written By: Barbara McLean-Stollery, Executive Airways Grooming Services