When Sarah Prevette was 15 years old, her dad made her get a summer job. “It was,” she admits, “against all of my wishes.” Her reluctance was typical of a teenager, but the job certainly wasn’t: Instead of flipping burgers or chasing toddlers, she was sent to work at a burgeoning London, Ont., tech company run by entrepreneur Joel McLean.
In the nine years that followed, Prevette rose through the ranks of Info-Tech Research Group, experimenting with everything from sales to marketing to HR as the company ballooned from a scrappy startup to a multimillion-dollar business with hundreds of employees. It forged a passion that has fuelled everything she’s done since. “To see someone have a big idea, act on it and be successful was pivotal for me,” she says. “It was so eye-opening to see entrepreneurship as a viable career path.”
Prevette is an entrepreneur whose main product is entrepreneurship. She’s launched a half-dozen ventures of her own in the past eight years, and almost all of them—including Sprouter, BetaKit and BrandProject LP—helped those building their own businesses connect with people who can help them. Her latest company, Future Design School (FDS) takes young people up to high school age through the innovation process of ideation, validation and prototyping. The aim is to give them “creative confidence” to start their own companies. “I think we need to raise the bar for youth in general,” she says. “Youth are capable of amazing things. The more we can equip them with not just experience and exposure to big ideas but also the hands-on experience with tools and methods they can leverage to create their own ideas, the better.” In the less than two years FDS has been operating, it has trained more than 25,000 students in after-school and weekend programs, as well as summer camps.
Prevette clearly relishes her role as one of Canada’s chief entrepreneurial cheerleaders. She does a lot of public speaking, and earlier this year starred in the Oxygen series Quit Your Day Job, a reality-type program that documented her and three friends as they invested in and mentored young entrepreneurs. The outreach is important for not just for her own enterprise but for the future health of the economy. “We live in a world with some big problems: climate change, finite resources,” she says. “We need the next generation to be problem solvers.”