It is possible Jared Smith absorbed the entrepreneurial spirit through osmosis. Jared comes from a family of entrepreneurs, and he remembers that at dinner on Sunday night the conversations revolved around the trials and tribulations of his father’s business. In junior high school, a Junior Achievement presentation on the economics of staying in school made a lot of sense to him. Later on in Grade 11, he participated in the JA Company Program, and he enjoyed the challenge of designing, manufacturing, and marketing a placemat that also functioned as a pen or cup holder. Although Jared remembers the product itself being a flop, the practical knowledge he gained from the experience was invaluable.
Two years after graduating from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1997, Jared’s entrepreneurial spirit asserted itself and he co-funded Incite, a strategic marketing firm. For the first year, Jared ran the company out of his mother’s basement, living from month-to-month, and putting in sixty to eighty-hour workweeks. Today, with 32 employees, Incite is a thriving company offering growth and marketing strategies to the business-to-business and nonprofit sectors. Jared says that running a business is both exciting and challenging, and he finds that he needs to draw on his entrepreneurial background, his exposure to JA, and his degree in business to weather the highs and lows.
Since he started his own business, Jared says that the Junior Achievement organization has been on his radar. Jared thinks that JA’s approach to partnering the business world with students from Grades 3 to 12 is a wonderful idea because it provides a potent mix of mentorship, knowledge, and practical experience. He has volunteered many times to teach in the school system, and one afternoon, his whole company took part in delivering JA courses to a junior high school. Jared noted that not only did the students benefit from the practical experience of Incite staff, but Incite employees also got a powerful boost knowing that they had contributed to their community.
In May 2015, Jared and his company helped JA build a marketing strategy for the annual Alberta Business Hall of Fame event. Incite supported the design requirements for materials such as the event programs and signage. Jared also agreed to be M.C. for this event and devoted time and energy to preparing for it.
Entrepreneurship was the driving force behind the founding of the Tour of Alberta that Jared co-founded in 2013. This highly successful event does wonders to promote healthy activity, to connect small towns and cities throughout Alberta, and to put the province on the global cycling map. Jared is also a founding partner of Startup Edmonton, a company that kickstarts new businesses in Edmonton. He also served as a board member of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, and as a board chair of the Edmonton chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
Jared finds that maintaining a balance in life is what keeps his entrepreneurial spirit on track. He sees the important elements of his life as the spokes on a wheel; his family life, his business, his fitness, the community, and his own personal growth and development all have to be in balance. Jared believes that physical fitness and workplace productivity go hand-in-hand. He is an avid cyclist and puts in a couple of hundred kilometers a week when he is in training. He is also a senior instructor at the Edmonton Gojukai Karate.
Jared believes that all young people, no matter what their future profession, can benefit from acquiring a practical knowledge base of basic business skills. He actively encourages his two children a nine-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, to experience entrepreneurship for themselves. For example, his children ran a lemonade stand, and his daughter sold bracelets at a local flea market.
Jared fully supports JA because he believes that the focus on entrepreneurship fills a much-needed niche in the school system by providing practical information and knowhow about budgeting and business. JA connects students to the business community, and Jared believes that building relationships is what business and entrepreneurship is all about.