Kick-start for young entrepreneurs

Joyanne Howell benefitted from programs in the CYBF Business Resource Centre.

Kick-start for young entrepreneurs

Montreal-born Joyanne Howell has taken a circuitous route to entrepreneurship that included stops in the Caribbean, England, the United States and South Africa. But it was her return to Canada in late 2011 that put her on her current path.

“Entrepreneurship is in my DNA,” says Howell, 34. “Many of my family members went that route, including my grandparents, but it took me a little longer to get there.”

Ms. Howell has a master’s degree in environment, politics and global development from King’s College London in the United Kingdom, and a background in marketing and business that spans the globe.
But she says it is the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) that has allowed her to realize her full potential as an entrepreneur.

CYBF is a national not-for-profit organization that helps young entrepreneurs aged 18 to 39 succeed through financing assistance, coaching and mentoring. Since its inception in 1996, CYBF has helped more than 5,000 Canadians get their business plans off the ground and realize their ambitions to become entrepreneurs.
The organization recently launched an online Business Resource Centre offering multimedia tools, educational videos and articles that provide valuable business advice to those undertaking an entrepreneurial journey. From pre-launch to growth and expansion, the resource helps entrepreneurs through each stage of business development.

One of the challenges for young entrepreneurs is knowing where to look for information. There is an overwhelming amount of material available and it is often difficult to navigate.

“We want to encourage people to start a business and that is why we created a resource that is easy to access and use,” says Dominik Loncar, an entrepreneur-in-residence with CYBF. “We believe it will be of great benefit to entrepreneurs, helping them to minimize the risks typically associated with starting a business, allowing them to be more knowledgeable and effective, and giving them an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Ms. Howell is an enthusiastic advocate for the Business Resource Centre. “As a young entrepreneur, and someone starting a new business, the programs were a good fit for what I was looking for — and they’re free,” she says. “When I looked at the information, a light bulb came on. I instinctively knew that it was going to help me.”

A highlight of the Business Resource Centre is the interactive Business Plan Writer that was developed by entrepreneurs in consultation with CYBF. Designed to simplify the business planning process, it allows users to customize their plan and offers tips and examples along the way to keep the process moving.
It helped Ms. Howell complete her business plan and obtain the necessary funding to launch her new Toronto-based business, Open Mind Marketing.

“The webinars made me feel that I had the support of a personal coach who held my hand throughout the process. They showed me what I needed to do and provided resources to help get me there,” she says. “The result is a very thorough plan that received great feedback.”

But launching a successful new business takes more than a viable business plan.

Mentorship plays a significant role in the success of an entrepreneur, which is why CYBF matches program applicants with a volunteer mentor from the business community for a full two years. Additional online tools help both entrepreneurs and mentor to maximize the experience through goal setting and accountability.
Ms. Howell says her mentor helped develop the vision for her company and pushed some of her boundaries. “It’s nice to have someone seeing your business through different eyes and making sure you don’t get too comfortable with your original assumptions.”

A LinkedIn peer group called the Entrepeer Hub has also been established. Featuring more than 1,000 members, Entrepeer brings together entrepreneurs, mentors and experts from across the country to ask and answer questions and to share advice, experiences and resources.

The CYBF Business Resource Centre was developed in partnership with BMO Financial Group. BMO pledged $500,000 to the Centre over a five-year period beginning in January 2012. Over the next four years, additional multimedia resources will be developed based on the feedback and suggestions of young entrepreneurs like Ms. Howell.

“I’m very grateful that the CYBF exists,” she says. “They are committed to what they do and to the people that they are helping.”

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