Shortly after becoming CEO of Futurpreneur Canada four years ago, I met Brennan Turner in Regina.
Brennan grew up on the family farm in Foam Lake, Saskatchewan. Excellent in both hockey and school, he earned a scholarship to Yale. He was soon called up by the Chicago Blackhawks, but finished his Yale degree while also holding down summer jobs on Wall Street in between hockey seasons.
As his hockey career ended, so did the Canadian Wheat Board. Brennan hit on the idea of creating an online grain trading platform that would allow farmers to sell their grain directly to buyers. He packed up his SUV and came back to Saskatchewan.
Despite his credentials and solid business idea, Brennan couldn’t get a bank loan to launch his business because he had no Canadian credit history or collateral. Happily he found Futurpreneur Canada, a non-profit founded in 1996 as the Canadian Youth Business Foundation that has helped 10,000 18 to 39-year-olds launch and grow businesses across our country.
Through Futurpreneur, Brennan finalized his business plan, got a collateral-free start-up loan and was partnered with a volunteer business mentor who was an expert in grain trading.
FarmLead is now the world’s leading online grain marketplace and has helped more than 4,000 farmers access buyers North America-wide to get the best pricing possible for their grain. FarmLead has 18 staff and plans to grow to more than 50 in the next two years, having recently secured $9 million CAD in Series A financing. The firm is opening a Chicago office and intends to eventually move beyond North American grain trade.
I saw Brennan last week in Ottawa, the day after Minister Morneau announced that the federal government will invest $14 million in Futurpreneur Canada to help 2,400 aspiring young entrepreneurs like Brennan create 2,060 businesses over the next two years. He also announced plans to expand later-stage venture capital funding and an Innovation Canada platform to help growing firms like FarmLead.
As the Canadian government works to build an innovation economy, Brennan’s story underscores the value of government working with the private and non-profit partners like Futurpreneur Canada to help young people to get the confidence and resources they need to start and grow businesses in Canada – from when they first consider entrepreneurship to when they’re ready to scale and take on the world.
Written by: Julia Deans, CEO, Futurpreneur Canada
Follow Julia on Twitter at @JuliaDeans.