This is a sponsored post on behalf of the Business Development Bank of Canada – however, opinions are my own.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford.

They say that if you’re aiming to run your own business, you need to have at least the equivalent of a year’s salary to keep you tided over while you’re building your customer or client base.

For me, even this may not be enough.

It’s tough to be build something sustainable and successful while not bringing in regular income. It’s one of the reasons I’d make for a lousy entrepreneur (at least, nowadays). I’m married with two young kids and a mortgage – I don’t have the luxury of being able to settle for infrequent income while chasing a dream to be my own boss.

If I were younger, and it was just me and my wife, then sure, I could live with the uncertainty factor of wondering where the next meal would come from as I built on my goals.

And perhaps because of that, entrepreneurship is suited to a younger mindset (though there are great examples of new business ventures in later life). Which makes the 2014 Young Entrepreneur Award from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) such an excellent venture.

The Pivotal Moments of Business Growth

For any new business, longevity is tough. There are so many hurdles to overcome – finding customers, competing with competitors, positioning of your product/service, etc – that lasting any length of time is a victory.

Especially when looking at “failure” statistics around Canadian business:

  • 30% of all new businesses will be closed within 5 years;
  • 64% of businesses with revenue of less than $30,000 closed within 5 years;
  • Almost one-third of businesses with less than 5 employees will close within 5 years.

Given that the term “small business” in Canada means 1-99 employees, and the failure rate equates to a lot of people out of work.

Much of the failure can be attributed to mismanagement. This can be weak management in general, poor management of finances, or weaknesses when it comes to marketing the business. In fact, almost half of Canadian business failures is due to internal weakness.

A lot of this weakness happens at key pivotal moments in a fledgling business’s journey:

  • Expansion;
  • New products;
  • Manpower and resources;
  • External advertising channels.

If the wrong decision is made at these key moments, it can mean the difference between a business continuing and one that closes its doors for the final time.

The BDC Young Entrepreneur Award is looking to help a business at that key juncture.

100,000 Reasons to Enter the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award

Where many new businesses struggle to get things right is in deciding how they should grow as the customer base grows.

  • Do they add staff?
  • Do they take advantage with more marketing?
  • Do they ramp up production?
  • Do they expand territories?
  • Do they open more storefronts?

As these decisions come to the fore, actions more often than not can skew the results. Expanding without research can doom a business to failure, while more marketing dollars without extra production capacity can see overselling and under-providing.

This is where the BDC and the Young Entrepreneur Award helps.

BDC Young Entrepreneur Award testimonials

Offering a grand prize of $100,000, with a second prize of $25,000 in consulting, the BDC aims to help one lucky business make the right decision, and focus on one key area for sustained growth.

This focus will allow the business to concentrate on where it needs to be now to get where it wants to go tomorrow, as opposed to spreading itself too thin and not even being here tomorrow.

In the words of Michel Bergeron, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs at BDC, this type of focused approach and partnership with the winner is key.

The contest aims to showcase the vibrancy of Canada’s young entrepreneur community and its importance to the prosperity of our economy. It is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to raise the profile of their business and tap into networks that will ultimately help them keep ahead of competitors and take their business to the next level.

When looking at the percentages of failed businesses due to poor management decisions, this kind of partnership – not to mention a major cash injection of $100,000 – sees the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award as an amazing opportunity for young Canadian entrepreneurs across the country.

People like Joel Pinel, who won the 2013 award.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Joel’s company, WOW Factor Media, is a print media design and marketing company with offices across Canada. His entry was based around his “Equipment Edge” project, that would see WOW manufacturing directional and custom-built signage for new high-rise buildings.

Winning the award allowed Joel to bring that signage manufacturing in-house, and expand operations to offer more services for his clients, existing and potential.

Since winning the 2013 award, WOW has increased its customer base, expanded into new markets, and is ready to grow the workforce, allowing WOW to give back to the community that supported it.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/hPTnLoIbovM[/youtube]

Now It’s Your Turn

While this is a sponsored post on behalf of BDC, I would have happily written about this project anyway. The fact that an organization like the BDC is helping young Canadians succeed is one of the reasons I love this adopted country I call home.

The fact they’re doing it properly, and as a trusted partner for the winner, is simply the icing on the cake. So how do you sign up to be in with a chance of winning the 2014 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award?

  • Be between 18-35 years old;
  • Be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • Responsible for the day-to-day management of the business for at least two years;
  • Hold at least 20% of the capital stock.

The business itself needs to be registered in Canada, have its head office in Canada, been in operation for at least two years, and be in good financial health.

Non-profits can also enter, as long as their commercial activities are carried out in Canada, and Government support and donations do not exceed 40% of their income.

Entering itself is easy (as long as you meet the criteria above). Simply submit a video pitch along with the application form (which can be found on the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award website) and away you go – hopefully the first step to the next stage in your business’s growth and success.

Even if you don’t win the main prize(s), you’ll connect with great mentors and peers along the way, and receive invaluable advice from those that have traveled the same path you’re on now.

Either way, for young entrepreneurs in Canada, it’s one heck of an opportunity. Good luck!

You can learn more about the BDC on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of the Business Development Bank of Canada – however, opinions are my own.

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