Job Title: Business consultant, entrepreneur, university educator
Why He’s Top 40: His entrepreneurship has not only attracted Silicon Valley investors to Edmonton’s technology scene, but inspired his own students to start businesses.
Key To Success: Facing fears – “perceived risk is always greater than actual risk.”
Though he’s only a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta’s School of Business, Sean Collins is highly invested in his classes – in more ways than one.
When two students wanted advice on their company idea, Collins met with them not knowing what to expect. “They pitched me, like Dragons’ Den-style,” he says.
About to leave for vacation, Collins wore a hoodie and flip-flops, while they wore suits. He thoroughly critiqued the pitch and asked them to refine their proposal. Two days later, iDeal Campus, a daily discounts site for students, had three investors, Collins and two of his friends.
Collins brushes off his funding modestly; he was simply giving them the same opportunities he’d received just six years ago.
At 20, Collins was headhunted for his first job as an event planner with Oomph!, a local planning company with international clients, while still in his second year of business school at the U of A. “Some companies made it a contract stipulation that I was involved,” says Collins, not so modestly this time. He didn’t expect to get into event planning when he first moved from Fort McMurray to study sciences. But, after growing envious of his brother Cory’s business studies, which he saw as more “applicable,” he changed his major to marketing and minor to finance.
As a student, he helped launch the School of Business International Case Competition program, which sends students to international challenges as far as Hong Kong. And his team even beat some of the American Ivy League Schools. “They gave expected answers rather than creative ones.”
After graduating in 2009, Collins launched his own consultancy and event planning company, Two Step Inc., which now has such clients as the technology entrepreneur conference AccelerateAB (which increased attendance by 30 per cent when he took over the contract, he says). Collins recognizes that he could have taken an easier road but, he says, “business always awards those who take risks.”