Fredericton student Cameron Ritchie is the perfect role model for entrepreneurs of any age.
Ritchie, a first-year engineering student at the University of New Brunswick, recently received the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Startup Canada at a special award ceremony in Ottawa.
“The message I’ve always been trying to portray is that you’re never too young to make a difference,” the 18-year-old said in an interview. “Age is just a number.”
His company, HomeWurk, has employed over 200 students with the aim of getting them into the job market.
HomeWurk allows students to perform odd jobs for homeowners who need quick assistance with things like home upkeep and maintenance. The online matching service helps homeowners get their lawn mowed or porch painted. It also helps students who aren’t able to gain entry-level work experience. HomeWurk gives these young people the experience they need to be more successful in the long run.
“If I have a student interested in a career as a carpenter, HomeWurk matches them with different tasks related to carpentry,” Ritchie said.
HomeWurk is a great opportunity for students as it gives them a sense of responsibility and individuality, he said.
All workers represent themselves when they go into a home to complete an odd job. Their quality of work results in how many future jobs they are offered.
Ritchie launched the startup in Grade 11, after hearing friends talk about how they could not find part-time employment that aligned with their schedules. Ritchie figured there had to be a way to merge this group of students with homeowners who don’t have the time to get their household tasks completed.
He credits community support with helping him start a business at a young age.
“An entrepreneur’s success is proportional to the amount of support there is in their community,” said Ritchie. “My biggest supporter has always been the Startup Fredericton ecosystem.”
After winning the Startup Canada award, Ritchie feels as though the country is standing behind his vision.
“The whole feeling was electric,” Ritchie said, adding that receiving the Startup Canada award has validated the idea he had three years ago and gives him a clearer idea of what his next steps are.
“This is something that is here to stay,” he said. “This is something that we have a very passionate team behind, and we’re going to make HomeWurk grow no matter what is standing in our way.”
Ritchie is now working to create a program for students to receive mentorship from licensed individuals who want to give back to the community and train students in a safe environment.
He plans to grow the HomeWurk management team as he hires a team of students to assist him in running the company. Ritchie and his team hope to expand the company across New Brunswick, and eventually Canada.
The team is currently working on a new web-app platform, which will not only help the business with expansion but also give homeowners more choice over who they hire.
Despite his successes, Ritchie admitted it hasn’t always been easy being an 18-year-old entrepreneur. His biggest challenge has been finding a balance between work, school, and extra-curricular activities.
“Just knowing that the rest of Canada is standing behind us gives us the fuel to propel us to where we want to be," he said.