- The most important quality of a successful entrepreneur is their work ethic and commitment to push through even when the going gets tough.
- Young entrepreneurs will need to have the right skill sets to manage and plan for their businesses to stay ahead of the curve.
- Bureaucracy and red tape can make the entrepreneurship environment more challenging than it needs to be.
To help entrepreneurs gain a head start, education programs in the country starting at the elementary level should train youth to be entrepreneurship-savvy.
Please introduce yourself and Stephano Group.
Thanks for having me today. Stephano Group is a family business. We are in cereal manufacturing for the most part but have branched off into some other adjacent categories. Overall, we do consumer packaged goods (CPG) food manufacturing. The company was founded in the late 1970s and early 1980s by my parents and I grew up in the business. It was run like a mom-and-pop business for the first whole part of its history and then at a certain point, my brother and I really came into the business and we have been in that capacity for about 15 to 20 years. Currently, the company is transitioning from my parents’ stewardship over the operations of the company to my brother and me.
How has the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Canada changed through the last decades?
In my family, we all consider ourselves entrepreneurs of a certain guild, so the transition is definitely something we live every day.
When the company was founded, I was just a child and so I do not really have a direct perspective of the 1970s and the environment of that time. My parents arrived as new immigrants in Canada with nothing. They had the clothes on their back but they were able to quickly get into business ownership and independent entrepreneurship. I have always found that story quite amazing.
“Red tape and bureaucracy in Canada has led many people away from the idea of pushing through on their own business.”
From my perspective, one of the big challenges is that I cannot imagine someone being able to come to Canada with very little in terms of cash or capital and start a business anymore. The red tape and bureaucracy from a regulatory perspective is a barrier to entry and that is definitely a major challenge. Red tape and bureaucracy in Canada has led many people away from the idea of pushing through on their own business. This is especially true for sectors such as manufacturing or something that does not lend itself to a single operator-owner setup.
What will the investment from the Canadian Business Growth Fund allow your company to do?
There are a few different avenues that we are looking at. Something that was never a possibility before was the opportunity to look at other businesses for acquisitions and partnerships. Another good point about the partnership with CBGF is being able to rely on and lean on them for guidance in terms of corporate governance. This will help us transition our small to medium business into the medium business range. To have that support and input is really important for my brother and me as we have been running the business having come up through the business itself and learning from doing, without bringing in too much outside experience.
Funding from entities such as CBGF allows businesses to have a holistic look at things and adopt a different perspective. We can access opportunities that we never had access to before. This allows us to mature the business, bring in more corporate governance and run the business in a way that sets us up for the growth that we imagine and the success that we want to have in the future.
What opportunities do you see in the food and consumer packaged goods space over the next few years?
Anybody young approaching this space and thinking of generating a new business will really have to look at the technology aspect. This was something that was less immediately apparent to us when we were getting our business growing. There is preliminary work to getting a business going such as the business plan and the things surrounding raising capital and trying to get something going in the early stages. Those aspects of the business have to be much more developed now. Young entrepreneurs have to have more skill sets and tools to develop business plans in this day and age. In our case, we relied on a lot of hard work and gut instinct. On the other hand, most entrepreneurs today will need to be a lot more aware of the technology component in food manufacturing.
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What is in the entrepreneur’s DNA?
This is something I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about and analyzing. It is a pretty simple answer with me, Tim, and that is work ethic. I was raised in an environment where my parents were working all the time and there was no real separation between work and home. Coming from a family business, it was ingrained in me and my brother how much work ethic is needed to run a business. The number one key in becoming successful in business and entrepreneurship is hard work and work ethic. You need to be focused and grind it out even on the days when you do not want to. You have to be willing to do that. If you are not willing to push through on hard work, you may not be in the right game in terms of running your own business.
“Coming from a family business, it was ingrained in me and my brother how much work ethic is needed to run a business.”
Who and what would you pitch to improve Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem?
I do not know the exact person in charge but I would put my pitch towards the education system. If we want people to have the skills ets for entrepreneurship, those values will need to be part of the curriculum and taught from a young age. When I was in elementary or high school, entrepreneurship was not a part of the curriculum. There was nothing formal or groundbreaking on that front.