Current Job: Co-founder and CEO, Netgen
Current City: Ottawa, Ont.
Hometown: London, Ont.
Education: Bachelor of Commerce (Specialization in Marketing), Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa
Kyle’s Story: Kyle has only good things to say about his experience at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management. Still, it was during a short break from school that he discovered what he really wanted to do: run his own business and make a difference in the community.
Kyle’s Career Path
Learn from People who Inspire You
Kyle Braatz grew up among mentors. “My uncle and grandfather were very prominent businessmen,” says Kyle. “They were a big influence on my life.” He thrived amid the support and guidance his family provided, and dreamed of becoming a successful businessman in his own right. But it was the 2004 diagnosis of his grandfather’s liver cancer that had the biggest impact on Kyle’s future. Frank Moores was the 2nd Premiere of Newfoundland and leader of the Progressive Conservatives from 1972 to 1979. When Kyle learned of Frank’s condition, he began spending as much time with his grandfather as he could. Kyle learned not only about Frank’s many accomplishments, but also about his generous spirit and commitment to giving back to the community. “I looked at the life he’d lived,” says Kyle, “and I wanted to do something to honour that.”
Consider a Break from School
Kyle continued to work towards his commerce degree at the Telfer School of Management, but he never forgot his last months with his grandfather. In 2008, Kyle took some time off from school to launch his first company, the not-for-profit organization Typically Canadian. As Kyle tells it, a ‘typical Canadian’ is defined by courage, willpower and determination in the face of adversity such as cancer—someone just like his grandfather. Typically Canadian honours Canadians who battled cancer by raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. In the summer of 2008, Kyle led the company on a cross-country bike tour, raising more than $100,000 for his cause. It was in the process of organizing the event and building the Typically Canadian brand that Kyle discovered his calling. “From that point on, I knew what I wanted to do,” he says. “I wanted to be an entrepreneur and run my own business.”
Build on Your Experience
After graduating university in 2009, Kyle set about launching his next business, Netgen, a digital marketing company that specializes in viral and social marketing. By applying the lessons he’d learned from Typically Canadian, Kyle was able to start an extremely successful second company in a matter of months.
Remember What Matters to You
Part of Netgen’s mandate is to give back to the community. As Kyle explains, social media has opened new doors for all charities, regardless of their resources. “Before, charities had a hard time [reaching people] because in order to get your voice heard, you had to ‘pay to play,’” says Kyle. “Now, with social media and the Internet, you have to ‘play to play.’” Netgen is using its influence to help many local charities, including United Way Ottawa, The Max Keeping Foundation and Aldo Fund, as well as Typically Canadian.
Ask for Help when You Need It
One of the biggest lessons Kyle learned on his journey toward becoming an entrepreneur was not to be shy about asking for help. As a student, he knew he had the drive and motivation to succeed, but he still had a lot to learn about running his own business. Once he began to focus on aligning himself with mentors and other entrepreneurs who genuinely wanted to help, his path became much clearer. “If you find the right people to support you, [they can] really help you take your business to the next level.”
-“Whatever career path you take, make the time to ensure that you’re going to be passionate about it. If you make a mistake and realize you don’t love what you do, then change. You’re never too old to get into something else or try something new.”