Parksville’s Jennifer LeBrun was the first female partner-delegate to attend the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance summit in Japan.
LeBrun, is the creator and owner of ULAT Dryer Balls—the first 100 per cent Canadian wool dryer balls. She joined 38 young Canadian entrepreneurs, as a mentor, at the G20 summit in May, where they networked with delegates from 19 other countries, toured Japanese companies and collaborated on how to make a difference for young entrepreneurs around the world.
The G20 YEA brings together hundreds of the world’s top young entrepreneurs to advance youth entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth, innovation and social change. Futurpreneur Canada is a founding member of the G20 YEA, and LeBrun is a mentor with the organization to help young entrepreneurs grow and expand their business.
“At the end of the conference we have a communiqué… all of us G20s get together and decide on five key points that we want the [G20 leaders] to take and make a difference in,” LeBrun said. “One of them was to get funding, more funding available for young entrepreneurs.”
Other key points from the communique included promoting free trade, mobility and entrepreneurship across borders, address social and environmental challenges, invest in digital infrastructure and services for development and shared growth and to ensure quality entrepreneurial education.
LeBrun said there was a diverse range of business sectors represented by the Canadian entrepreneurs who attended the G20 YEA from cannabis to film and TV to giftware. She said some of her main take-aways from the summit was that “sustainability relates to the economy, environment and social matters of our world” and that everyone has the ability to be positive change makers.
“I think it’s interesting that someone from Parksville was actually selected to go to such an event and be part of it and show what we do here, like our recycling programs and community events,” Lebrun said. “They happen in Japan but not to the same degree. So that was great to enlighten them.”
LeBrun created ULAT Dryer Balls in 2011, beginning as a way to make homemade Christmas gifts for her family. Her company has since evolved into a social enterprise and her products are sold in independent retail stores across Canada and shipped from her online store all across the world. The patent for ULAT Dryer Balls passed this March making them the only patented wool dryer ball in the world.
LeBrun and her husband moved from the mainland about three years ago in search of more space to expand their business. They found property on Church Road and have stay-at-home moms as their primary work force, with teams on Vancouver Island and the mainland.
“I think it’s great that there’s employment for them, they are an untapped work force, lots of talent,” LeBrun said.
Locally, ULAT Dryer Balls are available in Qualicum Beach’s ReVived Vintage and Shades of Green in Parksville.
“The community has been really positively responding to our product,” LeBrun said. “We’re just thrilled that Parksville and Qualicum Beach have really embraced our product and are really enjoying it. Probably because it’s all Canadian and we’re very pro Canadian.”
LeBrun said advice she’d give to young entrepreneurs is to start small and “see how it goes.”
“That’s how we started, they were Christmas gifts for our family and we put them in a store for fun and then I needed to quite my day job,” she said. “We’re so fortunate here, there are so many outreach programs and supports and entrepreneurs are a family, they aren’t alone.”