Head of The Class – 10 Top Young Entrepreneurs

Creating Web-wise kids (08/04)
By Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business)

Nevin Buconjic knows the challenges of growing a business from both sides of the ledger.

When the 32-year-old manager of the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s Enterprise Centre isn’t counselling fledgling entrepreneurs on starting up their own businesses, he is operating his own Internet-based consulting and training company, Digital Adventures, specializing in computer camps for kids.

Now in its fourth year, he expects to draw 85 students to the campus of Algoma University College this summer. “It’s roughly grown about 20 per cent per year in revenues. To me it’s proven itself,” says the Sault Ste. Marie native who developed the idea while tutoring at a local elementary school.

After working in the mortgage and finance industry in Arizona and Toronto, Buconjic, who holds a B.Sc. in marketing and management, along with an MBA from Lake Superior State (Michigan) University, returned to his hometown to take advantage of Algoma University College’s one-year accelerated computer sciences program. He had plans on someday starting his own company.

While tutoring, Buconjic realized many kids were less than enthusiastic about their computer training and created a more fun-oriented program around Web design. “Right away I saw the kids change. They wanted to stay in at recess, lunch and after school, and they were finally getting something fun to do.”

Today, his formalized Web design program walks kids through the basics of producing their own personal Web site and progresses through to video game design, a huge university undergraduate growth area. Although the computer camps remain only a seasonal venture, this year represents a crossroads for Digital Adventures. “I’m ready to grow if I want to take the next step,” says Buconjic, who plans on spending this year evaluating an opportunity to expand the camps to other cities in Northern Ontario. “I have a proven program…and I have it down to a science.”

To keep infrastructure costs low, Buconjic is hoping to take his delivery model and partner with other post-secondary institutions similar to U.S. summer computer camps.

As a certified Internet marketing and business specialist, he is also looking to take on other future consulting work and has talked with some local Web design companies about packaging their services together in computer marketing and consulting.

In dealing with many first-time entrepreneurs, Buconjic says a common challenge is that many are not doing their research in identifying their market, as well as securing startup funding sources. “It’s very important to plan out your business. Whether its a formal business plan or not, it’s important to do some research up front to make sure it’s a good idea.

“But you have to take some chances. That’s what entrepreneurship is all about.”

Digital Adventures Assists Young Entrepreneurs Volunteerism opens door for Web business

By Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business, 11/03)

Clients may do a double take when the brains behind Force-Network Designs walk into the room.

Steve Sauve and Kevin Rusnell. But Steve Sauve and Kevin Rusnell, two talented, teenaged Sault entrepreneurs, are years ahead of their time, having already launched their own Web design company. Force-Network Designs offers Web design, hosting and content management solutions. All their layouts are custom made.

Steve, 15, does the eye-catching graphics, design and layout. Kevin, 14, does the PHP scripting, database work and content management systems. “Together we can create some pretty crazy things,” says Sauve, a Grade 10 students at Sir James Dunn Collegiate.

The pair met two years ago at a computer summer camp hosted by Nevin Buconjic, the small business advisor at the city’s Enterprise Centre.

Buconjic, who acts as their mentor, says it was clear they were the most advanced in the class and had the best handle on the topics. They love making Web sites and began asking questions of him about how to start a business. It eventually led to the point of registering their company in early October.

To get their feet wet, the two young entrepreneurs began volunteering to build the Web site for the Norgoma Marine Heritage Centre. They are also doing some paying jobs including designing the subscriber up-load system for an online editing service.

The two work from their homes but they are investigating leasing some business incubator space at Algoma University College’s proposed ICT centre, hoping to share a joint office with Buconjic’s company, Digital Adventures, an Internet consulting and computer training firm. “Clients might come through me,” says Buconjic, “but I’ll be sub-contracting work to them.”

Both have aspirations to stay in the industry. “I want to work for or own a major (computer) company,” says Rusnell. “If we can get this going, maybe we can expand but I definitely want something in the field of computers,” says Sauve. For more information visit www.force-network.com

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