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2019 inductees are Greg Roberts, Christopher Hickman and Barb Genge
There’s something about spending time with aspirational youth that makes people think about their own beginnings.
At the St. John’s Convention Centre on Thursday evening, budding entrepreneurs mingled with established business leaders — three of whom were about to be inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame.
This year’s inductees are Greg Roberts, owner of P.I. Enterprises and owner and CEO of Mary Brown’s; Christopher Hickman, chairman and CEO of Marco Group of Cos.; and Barb Genge, owner and operator of Tuckamore Lodge.
The annual induction gala is Junior Achievement (JA) Newfoundland and Labrador’s signature fundraiser, funding programs that empower youth with skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.
JA’s purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.
This year’s inductees have done just that.
At a reception before the ceremony, they spoke with The Telegram about their own experiences and offered advice for young entrepreneurs.
‘Stay here and have confidence’
Greg Roberts became a franchisee of Mary Brown’s in 2003. By 2007, he had bought the Mary Brown’s brand and company, but he was a fan of the food long before then.
“I grew up on it. Growing up, it was like a big treat for me, and I always loved the brand.”
Roberts said today’s budding entrepreneurs might have an advantage because of the internet — he didn’t have the same access to the rest of the world.
“Talking to young people with different programs I’m involved with — the young people in high school and at MUN — they know that they can do business around the world.
“When I graduated years ago, we were very regional, we were very provincial in our thinking. Now young people do believe, they understand you need to be global to create great businesses, and you shouldn’t limit yourself to a region.
"Now young people do believe, they understand you need to be global to create great businesses, and you shouldn’t limit yourself to a region." — Greg Roberts
“I think you’ll see a lot of great things in the future. I always tell them, ‘Please stay here. Stay here and have confidence – believe.’”
‘There’s nothing that replaces hard work’
Running a business in Newfoundland and Labrador posed challenges for Christopher Hickman – at least during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Hickman is chairman and CEO of the Marco Group of Cos., the largest locally based general contractor in Eastern Canada.
“I think anyone that can survive here in Newfoundland in the 1990s and the early 2000s can survive anywhere,” he said.
When asked how Marco Group survived those trying years, he quipped, “I wonder myself.”
“It was very tough. It was about paying – trying to pay — bills, but we came out of it. Newfoundland was a vibrant economy for the last 20 years and now our Nova Scotia offices and our Calgary offices are doing quite well as well, so we’re very proud of what we’ve done.”
"...we’re very proud of what we’ve done.” — Christopher Hickman
Hickman thought back to when he first entered the business.
“My father gave me advice when I was a very young age when I started in the business: there’s nothing that replaces hard work. It’s probably a cliché, but I’d take a hard-working person over anyone any day, and nothing replaces that.
“I think in this province we’ve learned that we have to work hard the most to get ahead, and that’s certainly been what I’ve tried to do over the last 30 years.”
‘Be good to your employees’
Nearby at the reception, Barb Genge reflected on how much things have changed for young people today compared to her experience.
“When we grew up, I only had an exercise (book) or a scribbler – you got tablets. You’re connected to the world, we weren’t connected to any, only our neighbour,” she laughed.
However, she noted social media is a “great thing.”
“Make sure when you put something out there, you never do it when you’re mad. Do it so that you know it’s going to bring you business.”
"Make sure when you put something out there, you never do it when you’re mad." — Barb Genge
But for Genge, whose Tuckamore Lodge is recognized as a world-class destination, the key to success has nothing to do with technology.
“What I found was an asset is how you treat your employees, and I’ve had people with me since I started. So, you know, you have to be good to your employees, and they’re good to you.”