It’s something that doesn’t happen often enough — business leaders mingling with young folk who are just getting started.
That was a common refrain amongst the more than 650 guests at the Junior Achievement gala and Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony Thursday evening at the St. John’s Convention Centre.
The event is designed to celebrate business excellence in the province, but also to give the next generation a chance to learn from current leaders.
“I don’t believe you have to be a tech-savvy person to mentor a young entrepreneur, you just have to be someone with some life experience, and a different perspective, and save them from making the common mistakes and be a sounding board.” -Mark Dobbin
At the same time, the gala is the main fundraiser for the Junior Achievement program, which focuses on financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurial skills for youth. Last year, the event brought in close to $300,000.
Inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame this year were Shorefast Foundation CEO Zita Cobb, Killick Capital founder Mark Dobbin and Columbus International Inc. founder Brendan Paddick.
They may be seasoned veterans in their respective fields, but they also had mentors who helped them become the leaders they are today.
As a young girl on Fogo Island, Cobb said, her mentors were the older people who lived there.
“As a kid, watching people every day dedicate themselves to making things a little bit better for us here in our community, it was like, ‘OK, I get it, all I have to do is do something to make it a little bit better.’”
Cobb said she applied what she learned from the people of Fogo Island throughout her life, and continues to live by that model now in her work as CEO of the Shorefast Foundation, a social enterprise that aims to build cultural and economic resilience on Fogo Island through many ventures, including the Fogo Island Inn.
That was also the wisdom Cobb hoped to pass on to young people at Thursday evening’s gala.
“The most important thing is what we do, not so much what we feel or what we think — not that those things aren’t important — but what matters to other people is what we do.
“Everybody can do something — it can be the tiniest little thing. It can add up. You do a little thing, and I do a little thing, and she does a little thing and it adds up to a lot of things. That is how we make stronger communities.
“The best businesspeople on the planet are the people who get up in the morning and say, ‘How can I use my business skills? How can I use what I know, whether it’s a business skill or a fishing skill, to make my community stronger?’”
Fellow inductee Mark Dobbin didn’t have to look very far to find a business mentor. In fact, he said much of what he learned about business he learned at home from his late father, Craig Dobbin.
“He did a lot of business at home, and we were allowed to attend any of the meetings he had as long as we sat quietly — if we interrupted or spoke out we were kicked out of the room, so it was a great school room from an early age, and I learned a lot. It had a big impact on me.”
Dobbin said he was lucky to have a business leader as a father, and he stressed the importance of mentorship for young people in the province — perhaps in hopes of inspiring some other business leaders in the room to take one of the young, eager attendees under their wing.
“We have a great crop of young entrepreneurs developing new companies and enterprises, but I don’t think we have enough mentors in the province.
“I don’t believe you have to be a tech-savvy person to mentor a young entrepreneur, you just have to be someone with some life experience, and a different perspective, and save them from making the common mistakes and be a sounding board.”
Paddick said he has had several mentors throughout his career in the telecommunications industry since he started in 1986 as a door-to-door salesman — by 2016, he had founded a telecommunications company, which later merged with another international company, which was sold for C$11 billion — but the advice he most wanted to share with the young Junior Achievers came from his grandmother.
“She always used to say, ‘Tell the truth — you don’t have to remember as much.’ It pretty well applies to everything — marriage, business and personal relationships.”
Junior Achievement president and CEO Sandra Patterson said young people at the event should walk away at the end of the evening having learned plenty of lessons from the business leaders — hopefully enough to come back in several years as leaders to a new crop of Junior Achievers.
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