By Ian Ross
Kyle Long did not want to swing a sledgehammer on a Canadian Pacific Railway track for the rest of his life. Nor was he overly enamoured with putting to use his high-pressure boiler certificate from Cambrian College.
Instead, what was once a college sideline - booking entertainment acts on campus - is now a full-time calling.
The 23-year-old Schreiber native started his own Sudbury-based company, Leg Event Management and Consulting, in February and now showcases an exclusive client list of 11 entertainers with access to at least 30 more.
After a brief stint trying his hand at stand-up comedy, Long discovered a passion for the entertainment field overseeing a $130,000 entertainment budget at the college, booking bands and comedy acts, plus doing some freelancing.
Though situated in Sudbury, he operates from Vancouver, B.C. to St. Johns, Nfld. and is in the process of putting together a cross-Canada tour of his acts which include Maritime comedian Jimmy Flynn and hypnotist Tony Lee.
Long, who boasts a client retention rate of 100 per cent, attributes his success to his past working relationships with his acts, a straight-up business ethic and "following through on my word," he says.
As business takes off, Long intends to set up an office in Kitchener in the next few months to be closer to his clients, but plans to maintain a presence in Sudbury.
With no formal business or managerial training, aside from running a spring water warehouse at age 14 in his hometown, and a College Boreal self-employment benefit program, everything he has learned about the entertainment industry, he has learned on the run, he says.
About 60 like-minded young entrepreneurs lined up convocation-style at Tom Davies Square in Sudbury Oct. 25 to receive an award of distinction from Mayor Jim Gordon at a young entrepreneur recognition ceremony during Small Business Week Oct. 21 to 27.
"You're making a difference, you're pushing the envelope, you're taking the risk," says Gordon, who called their individual stories "heartening" for a community that has experienced so much youth outmigration.
"You're building a future for yourselves, your family and you're building a future for our community."
To commemorate Small Business Week across Ontario, Helen Mulc, the city's manager of business development, decided instead of organizing a workshop or business seminar, the municipality should recognize young people who chose to spread their roots in Sudbury by "doing the unthinkable," she jokes - by starting their own business.
So Mulc rummaged through her database of names and put out feelers through the community for young entrepreneurs. To her surprise she came up with 112 names, more than half of which attended the city hall event.
"The intent is as a community to feed off their energy," says Mulc. "(Young entrepreneurs) are inspiring; they shaped their own destiny and that's what I think is so impressive and I respect them."
Small Business Week, organized by the Business Development Bank of Canada in co-operation with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, is an annual national event that pays tribute to the talents and achievements of the owners and managers of small- and medium-sized enterprises.
More than half the jobs in Ontario are created by small businesses. Since 1995, small businesses have created a majority of the more than 800,000 new jobs in Ontario.