In December 2019, the ThriveNorth program successfully completed its five-year mandate. Managed by Futurpreneur Canada, the program helped young entrepreneurs in Northern B.C. launch and grow their businesses by connecting them with resources, financing and mentorship.
Father of four, Andrew Wille, has called Smithers home for 20 years. The former forestry industry worker turned pilot is an avid snowboarder and outdoorsman, and the idea to start a business came from a yearning to be able to spend more time at home. Dreaming of sipping cocktails on the “SouthSide” of his deck with his wife, Sarah, Andrew started SouthSide Beverage Co., an all-natural, sugar and preservative-free vodka soda.
“My current employment took me away from this magical place way too often.,” says Andrew.
“I wanted a business that I could do with my wife (now business partner), Sarah, would allow me to be home more, and to be a part of a growing market segment. My dream is to let go of the day job and grow my beverage company into an international brand.”
Andrew could find no better place to start a business than in Northern B.C., a place that thrives on building and supporting small businesses.
“Northerners are some of the most genuine, down-to-earth people I have ever met. Businesses take care of businesses up here; we all understand the concept of shopping local, and it shows!”
With Futurpreneur, through ThriveNorth, Andrew found the guidance and support he needed to turn his dream into a reality and start his business. Though not without its unique challenges, which includes the learning curve involved in securing cost-efficient suppliers, nothing could dampen the moment the reality of launching their business set in.
“Out biggest milestone was finally cracking our first SouthSide can on the south side of our deck,” recalls Andrew.
“No dream is too big, so never listen to the naysayers. Following your heart will lead to the greatest achievements of your life.”