N.S. entrepreneurs part of Canadian delegation to Australia summit

Two young Nova Scotia entrepreneurs who’ve struggled to make their businesses grow are now working to improve employment for youth at home and around the world.

Lynzie Smith and Ryan MacIsaac are heading to Australia this week as part of the 14-member Canadian delegation for the upcoming G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit. “We’re going to meet delegates from all over the world, not to mention what we’re going to learn from the actual event itself,” Smith, president of Amazing Space Interiors Inc., said in an interview Monday. “I’m just going to take a lot of notes and observe as much as I can.”

More than 700 people will be in Sydney for the July 18-22 summit to tackle what the summit calls an “unprecedented challenge” for developed countries already facing “rising deficits, low rates of growth and high levels of unemployment.” There are an estimated 73 million youth around the world who are unemployed, “accounting for more than 50 per cent youth unemployment in many countries,” the summit website says.

Canada’s youth unemployment rate is 14 per cent, while it sits at 19.5 per cent in Nova Scotia. The Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, which represents Canada, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the U.K., the U.S., South Africa, Argentina and the European Union, sees entrepreneurship as a way to create jobs, revive economies and push innovation and social change.

Delegates like Smith and MacIsaac are under 40, founders or co-founders of businesses or leaders in entrepreneurship, willing to work on youth employment and have experience in a number of key areas such as education and support, access to capital and government regulation, the summit website states.

“It’s certainly not an easy task starting your own business,” said MacIsaac, founder and president of the Battered Fish franchise. “There’s a lot of things that we had to learn as we went along and we had a lot of setbacks along the way, so hopefully we can make sure that other entrepreneurs don’t have those same setbacks.”

Even with support from the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, MacIsaac, who studied business at Saint Mary’s University, said he “was sort of learning things as you go” from the time he started the company in 2009. Things like the benefits of incorporating your business or how to do the accounting while learning the ropes of running your own business are some of his earliest lessons.

Smith, who started her business in 2008 at age 20 with her mom, said there is a great need for more programs and opportunities for people interested in starting their own business to learn before they take the leap so they have a better idea what they’re getting into. Now 26, she took an entrepreneurship course — her favourite class as a teen — at Charles P. Allen High in Bedford. She knew from her first successful weekend dance camp that she wanted to go into business for herself.

“Working for yourself is a major perk but obviously there’s a lot of pluses and minuses that come along with running your own business,” she said. There are plenty of long hours, sacrifices and juggling — Smith and MacIsaac are married to each other and have two children — to make it a success. Smith’s business has grown from an at-home interior design firm to a company with a bursting-at-the-seams storefront featuring hundreds of product lines, including one shared by Smith and her mother, that employs six people.

“I didn’t think I was going to get this big this quick but there’s still room for growth and I want to keep doing it,” she said. About 100 people work under the Battered Fish name, which is set to open a seventh location next month in Fall River. MacIsaac, 36, is also working on taking the brand across the country, into the U.S. and, maybe eventually, into Australia, he said. All because he wanted to be his own boss here in Nova Scotia.

“Seventy-five per cent of the workforce in Nova Scotia is small or medium-sized businesses, so we’re essentially driving the economy,” MacIsaac said. “We can be self-sustained if we keep pushing entrepreneurship.”  

Herald Business | Halifax, Nova Scotia