YPDaily: Christi Millar

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, but many of Canada’s budding young entrepreneurs have a hand in the form of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. Leading the Calgary outpost is 34-year-old Christi Millar, a University of PEI grad who is inspired daily by the young entrepreneurs the CYBF sets out to enable. Learn more about this amazing woman in today’s YPDaily.

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I am an enabler of entrepreneurship. As the Alberta Director for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF), I help young entrepreneurs launch and sustain successful businesses; and generally contribute to a culture of entrepreneurship in Alberta and across the country.

Why did you start working at your company?
I had been involved with CYBF in a volunteer capacity for a number of years prior to taking over leadership of the organization in Alberta. That alone is a testament to the high regard in which I hold CYBF and the colleagues I work with. Access to capital is often difficult for young entrepreneurs through traditional financing sources because they tend to have little experience and few assets as collateral. Not only does CYBF address this issue but we also hand-match our entrepreneurs with a mentor that supports them through the trials and tribulations of launching a business. It’s pretty exceptional.

What was the inspiration for this career route?
My first internship after my degree involved developing a curriculum for 8 to 13-year-olds that introduced them to the world of business and entrepreneurship. I watched youth in our program launch successful summer businesses and they were so empowered by what they had created. From that point on, it was important to me to make sure that individuals know they can take what they’re passionate about and turn it into a business; that they can create opportunities for themselves, their communities, and have a positive impact on the economy.

Do you plan on starting your own company in the same industry one day?
I think the fact that I work with entrepreneurs everyday makes it a no-brainer that I will eventually own a company of my own. I can’t help but be inspired!

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
There are many “best parts” to my day, but the one that tops them all is when I am able to tell an aspiring young entrepreneur that their business idea has been approved for financing and a hand-matched mentor through the CYBF program. It is amazing to be able to deliver this news – knowing that I’ve just helped turn a young person’s dream into a reality.

The most challenging part?
The most challenging part of my job would be when I have to tell someone that their business idea perhaps isn’t quite as feasible as they think it might be. It is a challenge because I’m not here to crush anyone’s dream, so it is important to approach those situations very carefully. What I can bring to the table is an outside perspective; some experience and some constructive criticism that can help transform a ho-hum business plan or business idea into a great, viable business. At the end of the day, I want my clients to be able to make an informed decision when launching a business – and if I play a part in helping them tweak their business model for a better chance at success, I consider that a “win.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be more involved with entrepreneurship on a global level. Entrepreneurs built Canada and are the backbone of every community, but not all countries have the same infrastructures in place to support entrepreneurship. It all goes back to the sense of empowerment I see in each one of my entrepreneurs that launches a successful business. I want to help more people follow their passion – and I want to make sure that there is education and coordinated support around the globe to ensure that it happens. It seems like a lofty goal but I’ll take it one day at a time!

What does success look like to you?
For me, success equals balance. The balance between loving my job and giving it my all yet still finding time to give back to the community and spend time with family and friends. It’s tough but I’m working on it.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
It was probably the day I began in the Director role at CYBF. My career had taken a minor detour into the agency world in a communications role, and once I was back working with entrepreneurs I thought, “Yes! This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Seek out mentorship. Once a month I think of one person that I respect and I ask them out for coffee. Sometimes I know them – and sometimes I wish that I did. My commitment to them is that I recognize that their time is valuable and that I’ll come to the meeting with well-prepared questions for them. Typically they’re flattered that I’ve identified them as someone I admire and are happy to make time for me.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Right now, the majority of my volunteer time is directed towards my role as volunteer communications lead for BeCause, an initiative of the United Way of Calgary and Area. BeCause is all about connecting young professionals in Calgary with opportunities to positively impact the city. I heard a saying once, “Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.” It’s a bit like what BeCause is about; we recognize that not everyone in our demographic is in a position to make financial contributions but we do know that they want to give back whether it is through volunteerism or community and civic engagement. BeCause provides a vehicle for them to connect with issues in Calgary that they care about.

What is Notable to you?
People that are comfortable in their own skin, that follow their passion and that give back to the community are notable to me. Those things…and a great gluten free pizza!