Young entrepreneurs getting help and guidance

Small business success reaps many rewards, but few come with the on-going influence of the Business Development Bank of Canada’s (BDC) Young Entrepreneur Awards.

With the support of several co-sponsors, the annual Young Entrepreneur Award winners get something more valuable than a handshake and a trophy: they receive a mentor for one year who provides encouragement and guidance in an effort to spur continued growth.

Under the auspices of BDC’s Small Business Week, one small company from each region of Canada is awarded the opportunity to snuggle up to a major player in their respective industry.

For North Vancouver’s Johan Arnet, 24, and Daniel Sacks, 23, co-founders of Imaginative Computer Solutions Inc. (ICS) – a company that sells personal computers, software, and integration systems – receiving BDC’s blessing meant a new friend in Bill Gibson of Rogers Cantel in Vancouver.

Although Gibson couldn’t attend the initial introductions during BDC’s ceremonies in Quebec City on Oct. 19, a representative of Rogers Cantel did attend and upon noticing the tech duo’s Fido cell phones promised immediate action.

“That’s the first thing I’m going to ask [Gibson] about,” joked Sacks. “I’ve never been able to secure a real cheap deal on a cell phone so perhaps he can arrange something for us.”

Speaking from his Rupert Street office in North Vancouver, Sacks’ was enthusiastic at the prospect of working closely with Gibson.

“We’re at a stage now where we’re in the middle of significant growth,” Sacks said. “To date we’ve self-financed ourselves and one of the issues we’d like to raise with Bill is different financing options, such as whether to go public or private…he’s likely been there and has this experience.”

ICS’s service reach has broadened recently with the establishment of its i-Create division. In addition to offering desktop systems, software development, system integration, local area networking and custom databases for its 600 corporate clients, i-Create addresses the challenges of linking larger databases with interactive Web pages. It’s this kind of work that will keep the duo and their 13 staff members (all under the age of 23) busy creating the infrastructure for the emerging world of e-commerce.

“Business is based on word of mouth…a lot of our clients are small to medium sized businesses operating in the Vancouver area,” he said. “We want to be able to secure larger, Fortune 500 clients…in the Web business, most customers are larger. But big business wants to deal with big business, although we can provide the same solutions and quality of service (as a larger service provider) for less cash … there’s another area where Bill could really help us with.”

ICS has already secured one Fortune 500 client.

Moreover, the duo received further accolades from the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce by way of a local Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

“When I started this business at the age of 18, I found age was my biggest barrier,” Sacks said. “Now, our age is a huge plus for us, it’s to our benefit as we’re very ambitious, motivated and energetic.”

Alongside ICS (, 12 other companies received their BDC awards at Quebec City’s Le Capitole Theatre last October, including: Interactive Tracking Systems Inc. of Saskatoon, Sask., a company that specializes in market research on the Web, and Click It! – a Yellowknife-based computer training firm.

The BDC Young Entrepreneur Awards, held for the twelfth consecutive year, are sponsored by the Royal Bank, Rogers Cantel, Quick Books, the Export Development Corporation, Canada Post, VIA Rail, the Government of Canada, Maclean’s, Profit and L’actualit