According to Futurpreneur, the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant repercussions for every industry, particularly small business owners and entrepreneurs, but many entrepreneurs saw the pandemic as an opportunity to start a new business and fulfill the community’s needs.
Futurpreneur, formed in 1996, is a national non-profit organization that provides financing, mentoring, and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39. During the pandemic, the organization has seen a 29 per cent surge in applicants needing help with their new business ideas, over their usual application rate.
One of Kingston’s success stories that has benefited from Futurpreneur’s services is Specadirt Vintage, a vintage clothing shop specializing in 70s, 80s, and 90s fashion. The store offers a shopping experience for all genders and body types.
Clare Palmer, the founder of Specadirt, graduated from Humber’s Fashion Arts and Business program in 2020, at the start of the pandemic while lockdowns were in place.
“Post-lockdown in July 2021, I started selling at the Montreal Street Collective until applying to Futurpreneur this past summer. The loan took a few months of planning and paperwork, but was fruitful in the end, supplying me with the funding I required to open up a shop, and [giving me] access to mentorship,“ said Palmer.
Specadirt is located at 248 Wellington Street in downtown Kingston. Palmer also has a small clothing section available at the Montreal Street Collective. She enjoys bringing business to Kingston, where the customer response has been remarkable, she shared.
“I would tell other young entrepreneurs to always keep an eye out for available resources and experiences that they can use to build and grow their business, and to take the time necessary to educate themselves on the industries that surround them,“ said Palmer.
Scott Bowman, Futurpreneur’s Vice President for Ontario, the Prairies, and Northern Canada, explained that the organization had witnessed a significant transformation in the entrepreneurial mindset. It involved a change from viewing entrepreneurship as a means for creating new jobs to seeing it as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to do what they love and be in control of their careers.
“One of the most important lessons learned is that there is no better time than right now to start,“ said Bowman.
“I also believe that young people see the value of entrepreneurship in today’s highly competitive market – offering more flexibility and autonomy, financial growth, and a chance to do what you love and connect with like-minded individuals,“ he added.
Futurpreneur also started the Rock My Business workshop series, supported by the Royal Bank of Canada. The program gives hundreds of young, aspiring entrepreneurs from across Canada the skills, confidence, and knowledge needed to launch a business, enabling them to work toward developing a launch-ready business plan and realistic cash flow projection, guided by Futurpreneur’s expert business advisors.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Futurpreneur pivoted to support aspiring entrepreneurs by reworking their in-person workshops into a digital offering, allowing for greater national participation.
More than 15,000 young Canadian entrepreneurs, spanning every province and territory, have successfully launched their business with Futurpreneur’s support over the years, and that number is expected to increase.
Futurpreneur is a founding member of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, the Canadian member of Youth Business International, and the Canadian host of Global Entrepreneurship Week.