The town hall in Truro took place at Nova Scotia Agricultural College Agritech Park in a building under construction – which was fitting for the early stages of the Startup Canada Movement. Roughly 30 entrepreneurs, academics, and business support groups participated in the Town Hall to discuss the biggest challenges facing Truro’s entrepreneurs and the community-backed solutions to overcome them.
One of the central themes for the Town Hall focused on Junior Achievement and Mentorship. It was noted by participants that young entrepreneurs really need a lot of help to startup their businesses, and need to know how to get connected to the support programs, advisory services, professional networks, distributors, talent pools, and financing groups that will be essential to their future success. It was also noted that young entrepreneurs could really benefit from access to regular mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs within the local community that could help them to navigate these complex entrepreneurial resources and systems. However, several participants noted that it is often difficult to convincingly communicate the ROI for seasoned entrepreneurs to engage in mentorship activities.
Two solutions were proposed to solve the Junior Achievement and Mentorship Challenges.
First, Town Hall participants suggested that Truro create Community Action Boards, comprised of local entrepreneurs and support groups, which would be tasked to develop a series of real and online activities and information resources designed to support young entrepreneurs in their business activities. Assembling key support resources like government programs, business planning guides, etc. through a simple and accessible online platform was suggested as one key task for this group. Developing an online mentorship forum where young entrepreneurs could engage with panels of seasoned entrepreneurs and regularly ask them pressing business questions for discussion in a group setting was suggested as another key activity for the Community Action Boards.
Secondly, Town hall participants suggested that Truro create a one-on-one Mentorship Program . It was noted that although the larger entrepreneurial mentoring forums would be extremely useful for broad discussions around business challenges, some element of one-on-one coaching would also be important. The major challenge to a one-on-one Mentorship Program, is that entrepreneurs are busy people, and getting their buy-in to this type of activity would require an overhaul of existing incentive structures and a new public mandate and call to action by local leadership. It was suggested that a competition could be launched, with substantial cash prizes, that would have entrepreneurs and their mentors compete against each other in a grand business challenge, and that the prizes could be directed by the entrepreneur and mentor towards advancing their business idea. This type of activity would be attractive, given the opportunity to enhance the public profile of the mentor in addition to the cash prize to support further business activities.
Overall, it would appear that real and tangible solutions exist to tackle the Junior Achievement and Mentorship challenges facing the Truro Region. Community Action Boards in combination with a one-on-one Mentorship Program could provide new approaches to securing entrepreneurial support for Truro’s young entrepreneurs. And if these activities could be combined with a public policy shift and call to action by local leadership, this would put positive pressure on Truro’s seasoned entrepreneurial community to come online, contribute to dynamic business discussions, engage their young entrepreneurial counterparts one-on-one, and help them solve their emerging business challenges.