I continue to be amazed by the calibre of the women I meet through this column. And Victoria Lennox is no exception.
As the Co-Founder and CEO of Startup Canada,Victoria has accomplished so much in such a short timeframe that it is almost mind boggling.
Victoria is the co-founder of Startup Canada, Canada's first-ever, entrepreneur-lead, national startup movement. In doing so, Victoria is the catalyst of a national grassroots network of local Startup Communities.
I always knew I wanted to be of service
A short list of her most notable accomplishments includes:
- Recognized by PROFIT Magazine as one of Canada's Top 30 entrepreneurs, 2012
- First Canadian, and one of the youngest recipients, of a Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion on the recommendation of the British Prime Minister for pioneering a grassroots youth entrepreneurship movement in the United Kingdom called the National Consortium of University Entrepreneurs (NACUE). Today, NACUE is the centerpiece of the UK's youth entrepreneurship ecosystem, supporting more than 55,000 higher & further education students & graduates across more than 100 institutions
- In 2009 alone Victoria was awarded:
- the SFEDI ‘Enterprise Support Network Builder’ award,
- ‘Overall Enterprise Champion of the Year" award and was recognized as a ‘Champion of Entrepreneurial Britain’,
- ‘Top 30 Under 30’ by Real Business Magazine
- ‘One to Watch’ by Spectator Business
- 1st woman President of Oxford Entrepreneurs at the Said Business School in the United Kingdom. While President she founded:
- a Bootcamp
- Oxford Women in Business
- Oxford SIFE, which focused on a special series on clean technology
- and laid the foundation for opening the first student-led business incubator in the UK
How did she accomplish all of this, so early in her career?
"I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset," explains Victoria. "The ability to create value and use that to manifest what you want in life is something that comes instinctively to me. Additionally, I have always wanted to be of service to others." In fact, being of service is how Victoria started her career: she traveled to Ghana while working with Women in Progress (now called Global Mamas). "The opportunity to be of service supporting women in another continent was very appealing," Victoria explains.
You can be of service through entrepreneurship
Victoria holds a Master's of Science, Global Governance & Diplomacy, Development Studies from the University of Oxford, along with a Bachelor of Social Science, Honours in Political Science with a Concentration in Governance and Public Policy from the University of Ottawa. "I have taken my policy and governance experience to entrepreneurship, essentially becoming a social entrepreneur, and used my background to make startups successful," advises Victoria. "I am invested in not only entrepreneurship but also in building communities, innovation, humanity, jobs, and economic impact: a complete business vision."
"Entrepreneurship is a mindset you use to manifest what you want in life," explains Victoria. "Mine is for social good and building communities and connections between people for the greater good of everyone."
Entrepreneurs thrive when they are in a network
Having contributed greatly to social and business causes globally, Victoria wanted to come home to Canada. "There are many countries globally that have proven startup and entrepreneur support success. I wanted to recreate this here at home," Victoria explains. "And, these countries rely heavily on government backing and funding to support startups and entrepreneurship. Canada is an amazing place to build a startup nation; we have the incubators, we have the talent, we have investment. Things are going very well in Canada, but why aren't we doing more?" she asks.
Fail and inhale
This interest manifested into the creation of Startup Canada. "Startup Canada is entrepreneur-driven and entrepreneur-lead. It's also a grassroots organization, and is not government backed or financed," explains Victoria. For the first year Victoria was in a pre-startup phase, trying to get Startup Canada launched. "I looked at Startup Britain, Startup America, and Startup Chile and saw that they relied on government funding. I wanted Startup Canada to be entirely entrepreneur-lead and grassroots," explains Victoria. "Startup Britain and Startup America are both gone, that makes Canada the second oldest startup nation after Chile, and there are now more than 50 startup nations worldwide."
It's amazing what happens when you ask people
She had no network and was amazed when people started helping her. One of the first books she read during this period was "Why Mexicans don't drink Molson" by Andrea Campbell. Victoria met with her, told her about the idea of Startup Canada and Andrea opened up her rolodex, which included an introduction to notable Ottawa entrepreneur Dr. Adam Chowaniec as well as Rick Spence from the National Post. These introductions helped Victoria create 200 partnerships before launching Startup Canada. The launch included a national tour consisting of 200 events in 40 communities with over 20,000 entrepreneurs.
"We want Startup Canada to be an inclusive community; there is no place for clicks. It's all about opening up the network. Entrepreneurs thrive when they are in a network," Victoria enthuses. The goal is to have 100 new community organizations across Canada this year to help build the Startup Canada network.
Start with what you have
Although Startup Canada takes up a lot of her time, Victoria does spend time doing things she loves. "I love to spend time with youth," Victoria explains. "I will never say no to youth." Additionally, she is looking forward to taking the time to get back into running and yoga.
Her advice for others who want to start something of their own? "You will never have enough money, time or confidence, but start where you are with what you have."