The Huron Entrepreneur Fund (HEF) is a new model for the Foundation: the capital raised from donors will be invested in Community Futures Huron, to support entrepreneurship in the County. The revenue from that investment will provide grants to local charities. John Marshall, Chair of the Huron County Economic Development Corporation, is the inaugural donor to the new Fund.
Q. Tell me a bit about your career path and connection to Huron County.
A. I grew up on a farm near Chatham Ontario, but the only thing I really liked about farming was the machinery! Right out of school I joined International Harvester as a field rep, and my territory included Huron County. Later I joined Champion Road Machinery as Product Manager, which brought me back to Huron County. Eventually I left the machinery business and with a partner, started buying companies in Ontario. We bought our first business in 1989 and sold our last one in 2015 and I “retired” in Bayfield. Now I work with clients helping them buy, sell or grow companies and I’m also chair of the Huron County Economic Development Board.
Q. So what inspired HEF?
A. One of things I remember so vividly from when I was starting to buy companies is that when it came to finding financing, banks wouldn’t give me the time of day! I told myself that if I ever had a chance to help young people find some capital to get into business, I’d do it. Another member of the HEF team, Martin Vanderloo, tells the story of when he was starting his commodities business. Nobody would give him funding and he struggled. Then someone he barely knew offered to help him get going, on the understanding that he’d help the next guy. Two other team members, Jim Lynn and John Kisor, both from the banking community, very much value the entrepreneurial spirt and they know how difficult traditional financing can be for new business . So, I guess you could say it’s a labor of love for all of us.
Q. You’ve done more than give your time to lead the charge: you’ve made a $10,000 contribution. Why?
A. One of the things I learned early on about fundraising is that if you’re going out to tell people that a project is important and that they should support it, you must show it’s important to you too. Also, I wanted the fund to be “in business” from the first day and have no delay in our ability to react to an opportunity.
Q. What will HEF mean to the people of Huron County?
A. Many businesses don’t need a million dollars to get started or to take their next growth step: often a loan of $10,000 or $20,000, or can be life changing for a new business. That’s what HEF will do. It can do a lot of good for a lot of new businesses. For donors, HEF is an opportunity to give in Huron, knowing the money will stay in Huron and grow businesses in Huron. That’s a good philanthropic “investment” in my view.