Every day I think about how lucky I am to work at Futurpreneur Canada, which is all about helping young people turn their great ideas into successful businesses.  Whatever problems we face – economic, social, or environmental – I am convinced that entrepreneurial young Canadians will play a big role in solving them.

Fortunately our federal government believes this, too. Its 2015 budget invests $14 million over the next two years in Futurpreneur Canada to help 2,700 young people launch start-ups with business plan coaching, collateral-free loans, mentoring and other support.

The Government of Canada’s support requires other players to do their part.  We have to raise matching funds from companies and other orders of government. We need more volunteers to join our internationally-recognized mentor network.  And all of us working to help young entrepreneurs must work better together to make it easier for them to work with us.

So far, 7,800 young people have taken advantage of Futurpreneur Canada’s offerings to build businesses of every kind and 31,000 jobs, right across Canada. When I meet these people – whether it’s a baby product retailer in Halifax, an international recruiter in Montreal, knee replacement innovators in Waterloo, a restaurateur in Winnipeg or a software success in Vancouver – I know that our future is in good hands.

Thanks to the 2,800 amazing volunteer mentors who have worked with us to date, our Futurpreneurs achieve a better than average five-year survival rate. This is particularly impressive given that these are young people with very few assets. They also repay their loans at a rate of 80 to 90 per cent. This tells me that, even if their businesses don’t move forward for some reason, these people have built financial resources, and gained valuable experience to boot.

The truth is that not every person wants to start their own business, and not everyone who starts a business is good at it or enjoys it. However, we owe it to our young people and ourselves to encourage them to think about how things can be done better, bigger and faster. We also need to encourage and help them bring those ideas to life.  We need them to be entrepreneurial in whatever career path they take, but starting a business is especially fulfilling and will create the jobs and growth our economy needs.

Unfortunately, too many young people still don’t consider starting a business as a viable career option. Why not? They don’t see enough role models, likely haven’t picked up entrepreneurship education or experience in school, and may have parents dead set against it. They’re also worried about failing or not having the support they need. Our job is to work with our partners to change that.

The tide is definitely shifting.  The Government of Canada’s budget commitment is one important sign of this. Another is the growing appetite of young people to start their own businesses. Futurpreneur Canada helped almost 1,000 of them start businesses last year – over 70 per cent more than two years before. We’ve seen keen interest at our 2015 Action Entrepreneurship Roundtables in 12 cities across Canada, from St. John’s to Quebec City to Prince Rupert to Iqaluit.

I am very proud of Futurpreneur Canada’s growing record of success, but I know that we achieve it only with the help of many others – funders like the Government of Canada, corporate sponsors, dedicated mentors, collaborative partners and, most of all, the inspiring and dynamic young entrepreneurs we are all so honoured to serve. Thanks to you all!

Written by: Julia Deans, CEO, Futurpreneur Canada

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