Briones: Youth entrepreneurs mean business in Ottawa-Gatineau

The skills young business people learn are immeasurable. Some attempts flop, some do not. But first-hand experience and the freedom to try sets their future in motion.

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I started my entrepreneurship love affair at the tender age of six, when I re-sold candy for a profit at the school play yard. Business got so big that I had to employ my friends. Sadly, the school principal put an end to this venture, but it was just the beginning of many more.

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Finding Canadian statistics about kid entrepreneurs under 18 is near impossible, but thankfully, Ottawa is home to some of the brightest I’ve ever met.

Alex Bui, 18, owns a franchise of Student Works Painting, a business-in-a-box. Through this business, owners such as Bui earn more than hard cash. The management and leadership skills they learn, on top of gaining a community of fellow young business owners, make this entrepreneurial experience the start of bigger dreams.

Bui, like many entrepreneurs, experimented with other ventures prior to this one. “In my early teens I did podcast editing, pressure washing services… they all flopped! But they all taught me something and I just kept at it, ”he said.

And that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship: trial and error. Making mistakes. Flopping. Then getting back in the saddle. Bui’s mother was nervous at first, encouraging him to focus on getting a job, but like most entrepreneurs “I do not like working under someone else,” Bui laughs.

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Just as there are some parents who get a little nervous at first, there are others who encourage their kids from the very beginning. Victoria Vu Duc’s parents encouraged her and her siblings to participate in a local lemonade stand event and together they created their smash hit, lavender-rose lemonade. This childhood experience encouraged the now 15-year-old to use her free time during COVID-19 to launch her food business.

Victoria Vu Duc, 15, owns and operates her own restaurant.
Victoria Vu Duc, 15, owns and operates her own restaurant. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia

She now owns Vic & Co Cuisine, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Outaouais. That’s right – a full restaurant.

It started as a hobby of cooking spring rolls in her home kitchen and selling them to neighbors and friends. A year ago, she decided to make it official and flicked on the “Open” sign to her shiny place for the first time.

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“I have learned so many things during this experience that are not taught in school,” she says.

Both Bui and Duc are responsible for interviewing and hiring their team members, as well as training them and paying them. “I had to look up interview questions on the internet to know how to interview,” says Duc.

The skills young entrepreneurs learn through doing business are immeasurable. Although these two amazing kids are exceptional, they all started somewhere: lemonade stands, pressure washing and so on. Some attempts flopped, some did not. But first-hand experience and the freedom to do it is what sets their future in motion.

Duc is proud to say that she now pays her parents for their contributions to her restaurant, while Bui is also contributing to his household expenses.

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“Parents, you need to let your kids try and experience some failures before they’re too old and it’s too late,” said Bui.

“Support them, it will be a reward for their success,” said Duc.

As for a message to other kids dreaming of owning a business, “there will be people that will doubt you; do it anyway, ”said Bui.

The Ottawa region’s small business community has an exciting future ahead.

Karla Briones is a local immigrant entrepreneur and owner of Global Pet Foods Kanata & Hintonburg; Freshii Westboro; founder of the Immigrants Developing Entrepreneurs Academy; and an independent business consultant. The opinions here are her own. Her column appears every two weeks.

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