Like many entrepreneurs, Victoria-based Justo’s Craft Dips found themselves at a critical turning point early on. To keep their business moving forward, they needed 10,000 jars for their product, but lacked the upfront funding to purchase them.
That’s when they turned to Futurpreneur for help. The non-profit helps Canadians become business owners with loan financing, mentoring and business resources.
“[They] assisted us by helping us secure the critical funding we needed to purchase our initial equipment and packaging. We decided to purchase glass packaging, and in order to get a decent price, we were required to purchase 10,000 jars upfront. Without Futurpreneur, we wouldn’t have been able to raise the capital required to purchase. They also forgave all payments over the initial months of the pandemic, which was incredibly generous, kind, and helpful to allow my business to stay afloat,” says Justin Kopetzki, one of the co-founders of Justo’s.
There’s a growing demand for vegan food products, so it’s no surprise Justo’s grew from from one store, to 60+ stores in one year, even during a global pandemic. They were selected as the top five for two Small Business BC Awards; the Youth Entrepreneur Award and the People’s Choice Award.
“Justo’s is rapidly expanding across Vancouver Island. Through an incredibly tough season of starting a business during a global pandemic, Justo’s has made it to the other side alive, and is happily thriving,” says Kopetzki.
Futurpreneur first supported the business with a loan of $15,000 in 2019 in the core start-up program, and through the pandemic also provided loan relief and access to the Futurpreneur Canada Peer-to-Peer Discussion Forum.
Futurpreneur provides financing, mentoring and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18 to 39. “We work with entrepreneurs at the start up phase – so usually about a year in. We don’t work with entrepreneurs in growth or mature phase,” says Andrea Welling, Regional Director, BC at Futurpreneur.
Their mentoring program connects young entrepreneurs with a business expert from a network of more than 2,000 volunteer mentors, providing support for up to two years.
Futurpreneur has seen an increase in entrepreneurship and small business creation in Victoria and across the BC region over the last year.
“Across the province, it seems like the pandemic hasn’t slowed aspiring entrepreneurs down. In fact, between April 2020 and March 2021 we actually saw a 29% increase in applications for our programs! In Victoria we have seen a 50% increase in applications in the same time period. Victoria’s trends toward a ‘buy local’ culture, sustainability, focus on community pride and beauty as well as arts, culture and technology, which are all reflected in the businesses funded by Futurpreneur,” says Welling.
To no one’s surprise, the largest increase in business type since the pandemic has been e-commerce.
“Successful disbursed businesses include a marketing agency, consulting firm, yoga studio, ballet training, coffee shops, bakeries, healthy food products, bicycle shop, digital platform, exterior cleaning and local food canning. The biggest increase in business type since the pandemic has been the trend of more online products and services offering more to the residents of Victoria and beyond,” says Welling.
Welling believes entrepreneurship is accessible to all.
“If you have a passion and a vision, don’t be afraid to put something out there. It may fail. There is no guarantee. A lot of entrepreneurs have to go through several rounds. Successful entrepreneurs are flexible, adaptable and able to pivot,” says Welling.