Getting down to business
A growing number of young entrepreneurs – students and alumni alike – are beating the tight job market by creating their own opportunities.
When Brody Hatch, Artsci’14, didn’t see the products he wanted in the marketplace, he decided to create them himself.
Brody is the founder and owner of Nude Voice Apparel, a socially conscious clothing brand that launched recently. “When you’re nude, you expose yourself. You bare who you are and what you represent, and that’s something I wanted to represent in clothing,” says Brody, who brought his younger brother Brett on board to teach him about business.
This isn’t the first company he’s created. He started a clothing brand when he was in high school, and these days the third-year film and media student runs a marketing design and event management company.
Brody's business ventures have meant he sometimes has to forego sleep and struggles to keep up with school, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “There’s really no other time in life when you can take such large risks, when you can try new things, in terms of starting a business,” he says. “You may fail, but this is when you’ll learn.”
Brody is one of a growing number of young innovators who are responding to the tight North American job market by creating their own business opportunities. The CBC reported on the trend in 2011, citing a statistic that three per cent of small business owners in 2007 were under the age of 30; however, this number is growing. “I see people who are graduating, don’t have jobs, and are coming back to school,” Brody says.
By launching its Initiative Campaign last fall, Queen’s is trying to make it easier for students like Brody Hatch to pursue their own ventures. A priority of the Campaign, which aims to raise a total of $500 million by 2016, is innovation and global leadership initiative. The objectives of this initiative include fostering homegrown innovators in the technology field and offering help with start-up incubation.
While entrepreneurship has always been the goal for Brody, he says the opportunities available at Queen’s have been instrumental in his success.
“I looked at [a Queen’s education] as unlimited resources. I think that’s what all students should do,” he says. “You may not necessarily be fully into all of the courses you’re taking, or you may not know where you’re going after graduation, but the resources that are available here – the profs, the people, the network – use those to your advantage to kind of create your own opportunities.”
Brody has networked extensively with alumni entrepreneurs, largely through social media, which he has leveraged with the help of Film and Media studies professor Sidneyeve Matrix. Brody operates a website (nudevoice.org) to promote the company’s silkscreened apparel and a twitter account (@MYNAKEDVOICE) to engage customers.
Brody says he also likes to connect and collaborate with other aspiring entrepreneurs on campus. The AMS’s Queen’s Entrepreneur Networking Club, which has established a “community or platform for entrepreneurial students,” is led by computing science student and entrepreneur Michael Wong, Cmp’15.
Derek Szeto, Com’05, says business competitions were the only extra-curricular activities he participated in during his student days at Queen’s, but the sacrifice paid off.
The North York, ON, alumnus was the founder of redflagdeals.com, which he started in order to tackle the relative lack of online deals for Canadians.
“It probably took until the third year of university before I started to realize the potential,” he says. “At the beginning it was just OK, here’s a little bit of lunch money, so that’s cool.”
While he was developing the company, Derek had an advisory board at Queen’s that included Queen’s alumni, one of whom was business professor Ken Wong, Com’75, MBA’76.
Derek made more than lunch money when Yellow Pages bought him out, and he has maintained his entrepreneurial spirit. He’s currently the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Kinetic Café, which works with start-ups, and is developing a meeting dossier website called dossiya.com. He’s also acting as a mentor to student entrepreneurs who’ve found him via LinkedIn.
Derek feels it’s a good time for young entrepreneurs to test the waters. “The job market is not as good as it was when I started, so I’d encourage more people to try entrepreneurship.
“It’s also a lot cheaper to start a business nowadays, he adds, “especially if what you’re doing is web-based.” For that reason, Derek echoes the Nike slogan with some succinct advice for anyone who wants to launch a business: “Just do it.”
“If you start young, you can afford to have a couple businesses that maybe don’t turn into full-blown enterprises, they’re just interest-based or lifestyle-based businesses,” he says, agreeing with Brody Hatch that “you’ll never learn how to do the big thing if you don’t go for it when you’re young. “