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#Hashtag Gallery Spotlight: Young Entrepreneurs Paying it Forward

Futurpreneur | April 27, 2015

One unique thing about today’s young entrepreneurs is how many of them are finding ways to create career paths for other young people, often after struggling to find meaningful opportunities themselves. At Futurpreneur Canada, we’re seeing young entrepreneurs paying their success forward by considering this issue and building solutions right into their business models.

Take Graeme Luey and Johnny Hollick, for example. In 2012, these young entrepreneurs opened a contemporary art gallery in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood called #Hashtag Gallery. They were inspired to strike out on their own and try entrepreneurship after growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of job opportunities available in the city.

There are many young people across the country who can relate to Graeme and Johnny’s situation. Maclean’s published this article last year about the “skills gap” problem new grads can face for up to five years after leaving higher education, when employers’ skill requirements are increasingly specific and not directly aligned with what students are learning in degree programs. And even when young people can demonstrate experience with the skills they’re seeing in job ads, competition is heavy.

“It’s often about who you know rather than what you know or how talented you are,” says Graeme, a trained graphic designer and web developer. “I was tired of looking for a job so I decided to go into business for myself.”

Now, Graeme and Johnny are using the gallery as a way to bring opportunities to local emerging and mid-career artists by offering a professional space to display work and get noticed.  And they’re not discriminating based on age: their recent third anniversary exhibit showcased four new artists, including 15 year-old wunderkind Grier Drummond!

These young business owners are set on removing the barriers – and the intimidation factor – that comes with the traditional gallery/artist relationship. In fact, 60 percent of the shows they host feature raw, new talent that they believe just needs to be seen.  They also host an open-call show each season for new artists, many of whom have never shown their art in a public space, let alone sold it.

“We’re taking risks every opportunity we can and they don’t always work out, but we can say we’re trying to be progressive, new and interesting,” says Johnny. “We’re offering that launch pad for emerging artists to help them start their careers. In return, we foster relationships that last with these artists as they develop.”

Graeme and Johnny are just two of the successful “Futurpreneurs” who have made creating opportunities for other young people a top priority within their business model. Their willingness to be innovative and take risks demonstrates how young entrepreneurs can make a significant impact on Canada’s economy in the future.

Learn more about upcoming events at #Hashtag Gallery and read the full story of how Graeme and Johnny got started. If you have a great business idea and want information on getting started, visit our website today!

Written by: Kristin Knapp, Futurpreneur Canada Staff Writer