When Paul Maxwell is bartending, it never fails to surprise customers that the 24-year-old has more responsibility than just mixing cocktails.
Last year, he traded in jockeying for junior positions for being his own boss, and opened Maxwell’s Music House in Waterloo.
“Every once in awhile someone will say, ‘So, who owns this place?’ And I’ll be standing behind the bar and I say, ‘Me,’ and they’re like, ‘No way!’” he says. “It’s kind of fun just to hear people’s reactions.”
Joining the ranks of entrepreneurship is a commitment that takes hard work, but it’s a viable option for young people faced with limited work options in an unfriendly economy, says one business expert.
“The economy is slowing down and people are seeing opportunities to get into the market at a time when it is a lull,” says Vivian Prokop, CEO of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, a charity offering mentors and loans up to $15,000 to would-be entrepreneurs 18 to 34.
Under a recent partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada, applicants can also qualify for an extra $15,000.
“The good news about young entrepreneurs is they tend to be more apt to take risk because they don’t potentially have the mortgage, and all those material things,” adds Prokop.
About an hour’s drive away in Hamilton, 19-year-old Chantell Kempijan is keeping the books at NDulgence Salon and Spa, which she opened in April.
A high school graduate, Kempijan doesn’t have any post-secondary training in business, but she learned all she needs to know while working at a salon her mom used to own. After it closed, Kempijan opened her own spot and hired many of her mother’s former employees.
“It was a little bit weird when I first started, I was worried they wouldn’t take me seriously,” she says.
But as a new entrepreneur, Kempijan was faced with another hurdle: Getting money.
“No one wanted to give me a loan because I was only 18. I didn’t have much credit. I had a Visa, but it wasn’t enough,” says Kempijan, who contacted the CYBF and obtained a private loan to make up the nearly $90,000 she needed.
That’s often the challenge, says Prokop. Some home-based businesses can be started on as little as $15,000. Others require deeper pockets.
“Getting that critical start-up funding is difficult in a normal economy. In a retracted economy, it’s so much more difficult.”