In life as in business; do what you love
by Cindy Allen
Try to imagine most teenagers you know in a world with no shopping malls, cell phones, or a means to make a bit of pocket money. A hellish ride for most: the reins of opportunity for others.
Shelburne, Nova Scotia native Kendra d’Eon was a 15 year-old high school student when she started Kendra's Equestrian Services in 2004. Located at Harbour Edge Equestrian Facility Incorporated, the business provides a variety of equine services including riding lessons, training, demonstrations, grooming, summer camps, birthday parties and her newest edition to the business—retailing bagged shavings (bedding) for the summer.
The seeds for Kendra’s business idea were germinated by a mix of interest and environment. With little prospect for making money in her community outside of pumping gas or banding lobsters, Kendra turned to what she loved best: Horses. She started offering riding lessons during the school year, “I just had fun with it.” With summer came an exponential increase in business, and she’s never looked back.
Like most people just starting out, Kendra had more questions than answers on the ins and outs of business, and admits that she didn’t have a clue where to go first: “All I knew was that I did something different in my area; that no one else did. I wanted to share my values as a horse person and teach that to others.”
Ever resourceful, the young entrepreneur found everything she needed right in her own back yard. She adopted the solid values, principals and business knowledge of her riding coaches; secured several Students in Business Program loans and valuable advice through her local CBDC; and tapped into the industry network she had been involved with for years.
“The horse world is all about who you know and how you know them,” says Kendra, “I knew it was important to get in there and meet as many people as possible, and once I got into business those connections made things a lot easier.”
Kendra's Equestrian Services business has since expanded three times and her students keep coming back. Her first two students, in fact, are still riding at Harbour Edge. In 2008 Kendra was nominated for the Students in Business Entrepreneur of the Year award, but her biggest reward to date is still watching her students succeed. Her next goal is to eventually offer a mobile service, teaching others at their own facilities on their own horses.
But life isn’t always rosy for the youthful entrepreneur. If the province’s estimated 5,730 young entrepreneurs have shared Kendra’s experiences, then chances are they’ve met up with age discrimination. “Sometimes young people aren’t taken seriously, and that can be hard,” she notes. “Still to this day, I have people call about my business, and am shocked that a 20 year old is running it,” she says.
And there were some hard lessons to learn on the way to success. Kendra urges others to never do anything without signed documentation. And adds rather ominously to “…always look a gift horse in the mouth, because it might not be as much of a gift as you think.”
Sage advice for entrepreneurs of any age.
But all in all, to Kendra, starting young makes perfect sense. She believes it makes you wise faster, and allows you to learn from your mistakes while there’s still help available. People want to see youth succeed – in fact, even her competitors proved quite helpful once they realized her business concept was different from theirs.
So keep your eyes and ears open, take advantage of all the great resources available out there, and always take away something positive from your mistakes. But most of all, try.
“If you love it, do it. All the other pieces will fall together.”
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