Shared Learnings from Youth-Led Businesses: Success Stories

Oct 22, 2022 | #YouthVoice

by Brennah Agnew and Matthew Breau |

What does workplace success look like for youth? In Nova Scotia, many young people have found different ways to show their abilities and talents through creating their own companies that stem from their passions. We chose to showcase four very different youth-led and founded businesses within Nova Scotia to highlight the skills that youth have and the endless opportunities available to them. Youth can be successful on their own and are able to navigate the workforce themselves, so imagine the potential that they can bring to an employer. As you will see, one thing that each interviewee notes is that their youthfulness and naivety work as an advantage – the sky is the limit!  


We got the chance to talk to Janie and Lauren from Noel and Co, a small youth founded and led Nova Scotian candle company. 

Working from Kentville, Nova Scotia, this business started with a shared love of the popular book series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians. Inspired by the books, the two sisters had always dreamed of travelling to Greece, so when their school organized a Greece trip in 2022, they were the first to line up! Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, funding opportunities were limited, so the pair got creative and began experimenting with candle-making in February 2021. By August 2021, Noel and Co— a hand poured candle company that uses virgin coconut soy wax and wooden wicks—was launched.  

Like anything, it has not been all sunshine and rainbows taking on this endeavour. First of all, the pair had to figure out how to actually make a candle. Then, they had to figure out how to run a business! To confront the candle making challenge, the two set aside one day a week to research, learn, and try things out. With the help of YouTube, Facebook groups, and lots of googling, they were able to find a recipe and a method that worked for them.  

Noel and Co admit that the candle making is not the hardest part of it all, rather, it’s learning how to run a business. This is the ultimate task – learning something new every day, whether it’s bookkeeping, marketing and product developing, customer service, and let’s not forget time management – the pair both juggle full time student schedules.  

The flip side of the challenges are the rewarding elements that come with creating your own business. Noel and Co have been able to spend more family time together as it is all-hands-on deck for production and selling; so much so that everyone in the family has learned something from the experience.  

The second rewarding aspect is having a repeat customer base. “When customers come back for more because they loved your candle – well that means so much to us!” The pair have found comfort, validation, and motivation in the kind words shared by their customers. That’s what keeps them going. 

Noel and Co say that one reason for their success is their youth mindset, one that is a little more idealistic than realistic. Right from the start, they chose to create “products with a conscience,” meaning that they choose suppliers that share their values and commitment to natural, quality materials. Every ingredient has been thought out to ensure a clean product for consumers, including their labels, which are made of 50% sustainable hemp and 50% post-consumer recycles materials. The pair also offers a jar return program, and 2% of proceeds go towards the Kidney Foundation.

It is evident just how proud the two sisters are of their hard work and success. Even the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce has recognized the duo’s success by awarding them the “Best New Business of the Year” just recently. Undeniably, the bottom line is that they have created a company that feels good to them and gives back to their community, customers, planet, and family. 



Founded and run by Zach Laberge, a 16-year-old based in Halifax, Frenter is forging its path in what many people might find to be an incredibly niche market. What started as a rental equipment company – think Airbnb, but for the long-forgotten instrument sitting in the corner of your room, or the bike you said you would use two years ago but is still sitting in your shed – is now a software company helping other rental companies manage their businesses. Frenter is designed to help rental companies “manage their day to day so they can focus on growing their business.” 

Starting out as a unique, easy to use rental company, this complex software business acts as a tool to help companies make smart business decisions, figure out smart inventory, and stop opportunity loss.  

When we sat down with Zach, it was evident the passion he had for his business and just how big it has grown over the last year. It was only last April that Zach had the idea to create a rental platform for small equipment. 11 cities and 11,000 people later, Zach decided to make a switch and focus on the rental industry itself, pivoting in August 2021. By December, he had secured funding, and Frenter quickly took off.  

With that said, it’s not always smooth sailing when you’re running your own company. Obtaining funding is what Zach has found to be the biggest challenge. The task of pitching your idea and proving that it is a worthwhile investment is a tall order, and Zach has had his fair share of pitches, presentations, and rejection. He reached out to over 1,600 different investors within Nova Scotia, as well as from elsewhere in Canada and all around the world. The persistence alone is to be admired.  

Zach also made sure to mention the rewarding parts of his business. His favourite part of it all is securing funding and announcing it to his team – in fact, the day we sat down with him, a deal had just gone through. He has also been able to build a team of professionals around North America to carry out the everyday demands of Frenter, meaning clients are receiving professional expertise. Finally, Zach said customer service and problem solving motivate him to continue to make Frenter the best it can be.  

Frenter has built a client base and offers a high level of professionalism through all its aspects. Zach shared that his perspective as a young leader has allowed him to get where he is today because he never placed barriers around himself. He entered the business world with a “blank canvas,” nothing to compare it to, and his naivety paid off because not even the sky was the limit. When faced with a problem, Zach never gave up, because that wasn’t an option, he would just “figure it out.” His stubbornness allowed Frenter to become what it is today, and it will continue to expand as it heads into its second year of operation.   


In the past few years, as consumers have become more conscious about the products they eat, there has been a growing demand for alternatives to many popular food items. Whether it be for ethical, environmental, or dietary concerns, many consumers find themselves shopping for substitutes for certain products. However, one product which it is often difficult to find a substitute for is eggs, which are a staple for many diets and recipes. We sat down with Hannah Chisholm, who runs Eggcitables in Antigonish, to discuss her business and what it is like to be a young leader in businesses.  

Eggcitables is a plant based egg substitute which uses chickpeas as a replacement for eggs, creating a high quality product which satisfies both those with dietary restraints and those who are more conscious about the ethicality of their eating habits. Hannah was inspired to start the business due to the constraints she experienced living with food allergies. Growing up, it was always difficult for her to find suitable alternatives, but as she got older she found herself inspired by the emerging plant based and alternative food market, and decided to create an egg substitute.  

Being a young leader in business is not easy, and Hannah has faced a few struggles. One of the biggest struggles for Hannah was navigating the various regulations put in place dictating the production of food. There is a lot to be aware of and adhere to, and the government requires a lot of documentation, which has proven to be a learning curve.  

While running a business is challenging, there are some skills that Hannah learned in her youth which have helped her along the way. As a kid, Hannah was particularly active in programs such as 4-H, and in various speech competitions. Those programs taught her skills such as leadership, responsibility, and confidence, which she has continued to hone, and uses every day in ensuring her business operates smoothly and effectively.  

Despite the challenges associated with operating a business, it can also be incredibly rewarding. For Hannah, speaking with customers and hearing their stories has been the most rewarding part of her business. One story she shared with me that particularly stood out to her was when a mother showed her a picture of her son and his father enjoying Eggcitables together, as those are the types of moments she strives to create by sharing her product. 

For Hannah, running a business is not just the everyday management of her company, but also finding ways in which she can serve her community. As a young leader, she often focuses heavily on issues that are important to her, such as being environmentally conscious about her product, and maximizing the positive impact her brand can have on the community. She also shared that these proclivities towards certain issues are not just unique to her, but a lot of her peers and colleagues in a similar simulation also focus heavily on environmental and social goals in their projects, and the sense of responsibility is strong for a lot for modern youth leaders. 


Kefir Protein is Canada’s first craft Kefir Protein producer. The company is operated in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, by two graduates of St. Francis Xavier University–Richard Grant and Donal Jewkes—who both ferment and sell the product at the weekly Antigonish Farmers’ Market. Liven is not only beneficial post-workout in supporting muscle recovery, but also in enhancing gut health, a topic which Richard identified as important to him. Charmingly dubbed “Adult Yop,” the beverage is beneficial for those concerned about their health, combining thirty grams of high-quality whey protein with powerful probiotics which heal both the body and mind.

Richard first got inspired to start a business in his early 20s, while he was heavily active in sports which resulted in more than his fair share of injuries. While injured, Richard found that what helped him best was proper nutrition, and he also discovered the important link between gut health and mental health. After moving back to Antigonish in 2019, Richard used his free time to start prototyping with milk kefir, and over the COVID-19 Pandemic, refined his prototypes until he found one which satisfied his criteria for the perfect beverage.

In our discussion, Richard highlighted three circumstances which had proved challenging for him: 

1. The biology of the product is highly complex. Dealing with the fermentation process, ensuring that there is a right balance in ingredients, and that on a microscopic scale, everything is balanced and adheres to all requirements and regulations has proven difficult

2. Balancing the operation of his business along with both his and his partner’s life circumstances, such as school, family, and other commitments has also proven difficult. Being young leaders in business often means that to be successful, youth must find a way to balance the responsibilities that come with being a  youth along with perfecting their business model.

3. The general management of the company has also proven difficult. It is important to find a way to clearly communicate the benefits and values of the product to consumers, and sometimes it can be difficult to find a message which resonates across a diverse customer base. Richard also stated that there are some other difficult aspects to managing a business, such as dealing with regulations, as well as managing the small space his company operates out of. 

For Richard, the most rewarding part of the business is seeing the product grow up and assume a life of its own, whether it’s just seeing how different ideas impact the product, or even just seeing the product in the community or on social media. It is also rewarding to hear feedback from consumers, and listen to them discuss what the product means to them. One example of this which Richard said really stuck with him was an elderly member of the community, who told him that she gave some of the product to her sick dog, which greatly assisted in improving the dog’s health. To LIVEN Protein Kefir, it is encouraging when the community recognizes and supports them, and connects with the business and their messaging. 

A little surprisingly, Richard said that two things which helped him greatly were kickboxing and working as a DJ. As a kickboxer, you learn a variety of skills very quickly, and how to use those skills creatively, which Richard said translated into his business. Furthermore, as a DJ, Richard gained a better understanding of how people and crowds react to different types of creative works, which assists him in figuring out how to connect with people.  

Brennah Agnew

Brennah Agnew

CEI Youth Advisory Group Member, 2021-22


Brennah Agnew, originally from Ottawa, achieved a BA in Aquatic Resources, Public Policy, and Social Research at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. While there, she uncovered a passion for social change and climate justice advocacy. Now a recruiter for StFX, Brennah enjoys working with youth on their journey to post-secondary education while striving to foster a more equitable and sustainable society.

Matthew Breau

Matthew Breau

CEI Youth Advisory Group Member, 2021-22


Matthew Breau is a second-year student at Antigonish’s Saint Francis Xavier University studying Political Science, with a passion for uplifting those around him. In working with the YAG, Matthew’s hope was to be able to amplify the voices of those leaders who work hard every day to create a better province for all Nova Scotians.