It would not be a surprise to say that it is of vital importance for an entrepreneur to be flexible. Non-profit and profit organizations work in unpredictable landscape and has many moving pieces. Therefore, entrepreneurs are expected to be very responsive in dealing with the issues and be able to pivot in order to not only survive but thrive. Simply putting, flexibility is the key; but, so is the focus.
One such focused visionary is Victoria Lennox, the Co-founder and CEO of Startup Canada. Led by Victoria, Startup Canada is a national entrepreneurial movement that brings together, celebrates and gives voice to over 247,500 entrepreneurs, 750 partners and 50 grassroots startup communities in Canada. Through digital programs and flagship events, Startup Canada is the network of promoting, inspiring, educating, connecting and giving a voice to Canada’s entrepreneurs; supporting them to start, operate and scale businesses that build a better Canada for the world today and for future generations.
The beginning of her journey
Victoria holds a Master’s of Science, Global Governance & Diplomacy, Development Studies from the University of Oxford, along with a Bachelor of Social Science, Honours in Political Science with a Concentration in Governance and Public Policy from the University of Ottawa. After completing her Masters, Victoria wanted to be of service to others and that’s how Victoria started her career: she traveled to Ghana while working with Women in Progress (now known as Global Mamas). For her, the opportunity to be of service supporting women in another continent was very appealing. It was there that Victoria learned the importance of entrepreneurship and how it could help people find out what’s unique about them. And she realized to bring out that the uniqueness of everyone to the world in order to serve others, their communities and their country, entrepreneurship is the key. Therefore, after contributing greatly to social and business causes globally, Victoria decided to come home to Canada. At the time, startup scene was proving the mantle for business growth and innovation across all major countries. It was time for her to create the same in Canada; to build a startup nation. Startup Canada had born, but the journey was far from done.
Making her dream resonate with entrepreneurs
Victoria identified the gaps in the Canadian entrepreneurship landscape and reached out to various organizations for support. She facilitated partnerships with more than 200 organizations to launch a national tour across Canada. Moreover, she visited 40 cities and spoke with 20,000 entrepreneurs about what she needed to do to build Canada into an innovation nation for new businesses. After a six-month tour, Victoria and her team conducted national town halls across the country, which included interviews with entrepreneurs from coast to coast to coast. They also authored a report called the Startup Canada Blueprints and a video documentary series that shared their learnings. It resonated with the entrepreneurship community and ultimately formed the basis of what Victoria and the team does at Startup Canada today.
Six years are gone and Victoria’s Startup Canada is the most recognized, energized and active entrepreneurship organization in Canada. It is globally recognized as the best practice in fuelling grassroots entrepreneurship and has educated leaders in the United Kingdom, Malaysia, South Korea, South America and the United States. Startup Canada celebrates and promotes Canada as a global leader in entrepreneurship and a global destination for business and investment. It invests in building strong Startup Communities in every city, town and region to create the foundations where future generations can strive for higher levels of prosperity and wellbeing. Moreover, Startup Canada provides a national perspective, working with like-minded organizations and individuals to advocate for and advance entrepreneurial achievement and a first-adopter mindset across all sectors. And most importantly, Startup Canada champions entrepreneurship as a vehicle for inclusive economic growth because Victoria believes diversity is Canada’s greatest strength as a nation.
Fueling entrepreneurship movements for the better future
Today, Victoria is known to be the first Canadian and one of the youngest recipients of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion. As a student at the University of Oxford, Victoria won the award for having pioneered a grassroots youth entrepreneurship movement in the UK called NACUE. Today NACUE is central to the UK’s youth entrepreneurship ecosystem, supporting more than 55,000 higher education students and graduates across more than 100 institutions. She is also recognized by the United Nations Development Programme and the European Union as one of the foremost experts in entrepreneurship education; ecosystem and program architecture, governance, development and implementation; and, in fuelling entrepreneurship movements and awareness campaigns.
On the global stage, Victoria is a strong leader. As the catalyst for Startup Generation and host of Startup Nations, Victoria supports and mentors the development of youth enterprise organizations in more than 20 countries; provides advisory support to international organizations in the areas of entrepreneurship networks, education and policy development; and supports colleges and universities in enhancing their entrepreneurial activities. Countries around the world are also working to emulate Startup Canada’s methodologies and activities, viewing the organization, under Victoria’s leadership, as the best practice in fuelling entrepreneurship culture.
Dreaming bigger and bigger
Victoria firmly believes that every entrepreneur needs to understand they are not alone. There is a whole ecosystem of support and a country that wants to see them succeed on the global stage. At Startup Canada, Victoria has great programs like Startup Finance Bootcamp, Go Global Bootcamp and Pitch Nights where entrepreneurs can grow and test their entrepreneurial skills. Entrepreneurship is a contact sport. It’s experiential and social, so it’s critical for entrepreneurs to understand that they need to get out there and become part of the community.
Having achieved the success in such short time frame, Victoria says that success for her is a culture shift where children sitting around the breakfast table ask their parents how they can take their idea and start something exciting with it – a culture where their parents encourage them to pursue those ideas and provide them with a list of resources available like Startup Canada to do so. For her, success is empowering every Canadian to realize their dreams and their ideas through entrepreneurship. In her own words, “when you think you’re thinking big, think bigger because anything is possible.”
To find out more about Startup Canada, visit startupcan.ca