Alex Henniffent might only be 20 years old but he's already got seven years of experience as an entrepreneur.
Mr. Henniffent is a student in Grenfell Campus's business administration program. He is taking advantage of the articulation agreement that is allowing him to use his College of the North Atlantic credits toward his Memorial degree.
He founded VOLTFUSE specialty headwear and clothing line in 2010 in his Grand Falls-Windsor home. Product development began as screen-printed t-shirts and hats with hand-stitched labels, and product endorsement started with friends wearing the products while snowboarding.
As time went by the product improved and the reach of VOLTFUSE increased, on both a national and international level. A lot has changed since the early days but VOLTFUSE still operates with the goal of better establishing and growing the snowboarding community throughout Atlantic Canada.
"VOLTFUSE was ultimately influenced by my passion for snowboarding," said Mr. Henniffent." I knew at a very young age that snowboarding was something that I wanted to do for the rest of the life, and that I probably wasn't going to be able to financially survive as a sponsored snowboarder. I wanted to create something that would allow me to live within the sport and industry that I loved, apply my creative outlook, and most importantly offer something new and refreshing to the dulling snowboard industry.
"There was a lack of brands in the industry that were actually owned and operated by snowboarders themselves. I noticed an opportunity to improve and add new products, styles, features, materials and make VOLTFUSE stand apart from others. I would describe VOLTFUSE product as a combination of many little things that I felt other brands were lacking or not offering, and combining those to really paint the big picture and creating a much stronger product line."
Mr. Henniffent's efforts were recognized at the Global Student Entrepreneurs Awards ceremony last week. He placed first place in the Atlantic Canada's region of this international contest series.
The value of the prize he received was $30,000 which included transportation to Vancouver, an Air Miles trip in North America, business training, a website creation package and $5,000 cash.
"It is really reassuring when you get recognized from different organizations and different successful business people as they see potential and see the good it what you are doing. It started off pretty informally and has really grown to be something much more than what I could ever hoped for.
"Things are really looking good for the future. I'm really excited to apply the skills and concepts that I'm learning in school toward the growth of my business, apply them in a practical environment of my business. I'm really excited about what the future will bring- focusing 110% of my time into the future and growth of this venture."
In his application package, Mr. Henniffent outlined the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship.
"There is nothing more rewarding then starting something from scratch and pouring all of your time, effort, emotions and money into it with the hopes of creating and maintaining a successful and sustainable business. It's definitely intimidating and risky, and you hope that others will like what you are offering and support that.
"Being an entrepreneur is definitely not for everyone. You never actually stop working; your business is always on your mind. It is a serious mind game but in the long run it definitely makes you a stronger person and prepared to take on even bigger risks and tasks. I hope that I can influence other young people that regardless of your age, if you are truly passionate about something you can make it work."
Mr. Henniffent will compete in the national competition in Vancouver next month, and a win there will advance him to the international competition which will be held in Germany.
"The caliber of business and entrepreneurs will be a lot higher," he said of the upcoming competition. "I'm expecting a lot of technology and application based businesses but I'm really excited to go in, give a good presentation and represent myself, my business and Grenfell Campus in a positive way."
Ron Lovett, local
serial entrepreneur and founder of EO (Entrepreneur's Organization) Atlantic
Chapter and chair of the GSEA Atlantic Qualifiers, right, presents the award to Alex Henniffent of VOLTFUSE.