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Networking useful for young entrepreneurs

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A simple handshake and introduction can be the start of a new business relationship.

Young entrepreneurs in Headingley and Winnipeg are realizing that old-fashioned, face-to-face  networking can help their businesses, plus give them the chance to meet mentors.

At age 25, Graham Hawryluk, who owns Meticulous Flooring, may be the youngest person to ever take on the role of president of a Chamber of Commerce. He stepped into the position on the Headingley Regional Chamber earlier this year.

When he first joined the Chamber in 2007, Hawryluk recalls that he didn’t fully understand the value of becoming a member. He now likens it to gaining entry to an inner circle comprised of Headingley-area businesspeople that are great sources of information.

"What I really got was a good sense of belonging," said Hawryluk, adding that even though he grew up in Headingley, it’s a tight-knit community.

He was surprised and pleased when many local businesspeople and Chamber members made a point of attending his shop’s grand opening. "Some of these people were like local celebrities," he said.

After benefiting from his involvement in the Headingley Chamber, Hawryluk said," it’s now my turn to help."

Jade Wood is the 20-year-old owner of Visual Works, a graphics design company, that she runs out of her family’s home in Headingley. Wood is completing a business administration course and also works part-time as a waitress and bartender.

She was just 15 in 2007 when she started volunteering with non-profit groups in Headingley, and helped design and publish a winter carnival book as part of a fundraiser for Headingley’s Phoenix Community Centre.  She also creates promotional material and signage for the annual community Santa breakfast.  

After starting her company two years ago, Wood joined the Headingley Chamber as their junior board member.

Wood creates and sells stationary, commercial signage, decals, promotional items and customer publishing and graphic design services. She said that her business more than doubled during her second year, and the third year is off to a good start. She credits the connections she has made through the Chamber with assisting in the growth of her business.

 "Membership and being on the Chamber Board has been a large asset to my business and to myself as a new and young entrepreneur," Wood said.  "The biggest asset is networking my business with other business owners, who are motivated people that understand business and the challenges of today’s market."

Shawn Hebert, owner of Total Storage, a 27,000-sq. ft. self-storage facility that opened this spring, recently joined the Headingley Chamber. He views it as a wise business move.

Hebert said, by joining together with other business owners, collaboration is possible. "You can be a bigger voice in the community."

President of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce Dave Angus has heard about the Headingley Regional Chamber’s growth and influx of young entrepreneurs.  He said that the Winnipeg Chamber is also working to bring more young business owners onboard.

"We’ve had a focus on creating programming for young entrepreneurs for a number of years," he said, adding that they partner with students in the Asper School of Business and member of JCI Winnipeg. JCI Winnipeg is part of an international organization that gives its members, ages 18 to 40 years, leadership training, business networking, volunteer and international experiences.

Angus said that mentorship can be extremely valuable for anyone who is just beginning their business careers. "They can get good advice from those who have been in business for a long, long time."

Director with the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce Sue Barkman said she has found that younger entrepreneurs want to be involved in activities they feel are relevant to them, so some local Chambers might have to start using social media to communicate with the younger business owners in their areas.

Darrick Baxter, owner of Ogoki Learning Systems, is one such techno-savvy entrepreneur. The 35-year-old developed a computer application that can be used to translate and teach the Ojibway language. To date, there have been over 10,000 downloads of the free app. His clients include a Native American college and the Aboriginal Language Association of Manitoba.

The 35-year-old lives in Winnipeg but maintains an office on Sandy Bay First Nation. Working primarily at home, he decided to join Winnipeg’s Aboriginal Chamber.

"I felt that I needed to get my name out there," he said. "I think that it’s paid off."

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