Alex Henniffent may only be 20, but he already has seven years of experience as an entrepreneur.
Mr. Henniffent is a student in Grenfell Campus’s business administration program. He is taking advantage of the articulation agreement that allows him to use his College of the North Atlantic credits toward his Memorial degree.
Mr. Henniffent founded his specialty headwear and clothing line, VOLTFUSE, at the age of 13 in his Grand Falls-Windsor home.
From left, Alex Henniffent receives a first place Global Student Entrepreneur Award from Ron Lovett,
chair of the GSEA Atlantic Qualifiers.
Product development began as screen-printed t-shirts and hats with hand-stitched labels; product endorsement began with friends wearing his products while snowboarding.
A lot has changed since those early days, but VOLTFUSE still operates with the goal of better establishing and growing the snowboarding community in Atlantic Canada. And, as time goes by, the products keep improving and the company’s reach keeps expanding on both a national and international level.
Began with passion
It all started with Mr. Henniffent’s passion for his sport.
“I knew at a very young age that snowboarding was something that I wanted to do for the rest of the life, and that I probably wasn’t going to be able to financially survive as a sponsored snowboarder,” he said.
“I wanted to create something that would allow me to live within the sport and industry that I loved, apply my creative outlook, and most importantly, offer something new and refreshing to the industry.”
“I would describe VOLTFUSE product as a combination of many little things that I felt other brands were lacking.” — Alex Henniffent
The Grenfell entrepreneur says he saw an opportunity to serve the snowboarding market when he realized there was a lack of brands in the industry that were owned and operated by snowboarders themselves.
The inspiration that followed included improving and adding new products, styles, features, materials — essentially, making VOLTFUSE stand apart from its competitors.
“I would describe VOLTFUSE product as a combination of many little things that I felt other brands were lacking or not offering, and combining those to really paint the big picture and creating a much stronger product line.”
Best in Atlantic Canada
Mr. Henniffent’s efforts were recognized at a Global Student Entrepreneur Awards ceremony last month. He placed first in the Atlantic Canadian region of the international contest series.
The award’s total value is $30,000, which includes transportation to Vancouver, B.C., an Air Miles trip in North America, business training, a website creation package and $5,000 cash.
“I’m really excited about what the future will bring.” — Alex Henniffent
Mr. Henniffent says it is “really reassuring” to be recognized by different organizations and successful business people, especially since his business began informally and has grown into something much that more than he hoped for.
“I’m really excited to apply the skills and concepts that I’m learning in school toward the growth of my business, apply them in a practical environment of my business. I’m really excited about what the future will bring — focusing 110 per cent of my time into the future and growth of this venture.”
And while he says being an entrepreneur is not for everyone — that you never stop working and that your business is always on your mind — he says it will make you a stronger person and prepare you to take on even bigger risks and tasks.
“I hope that I can influence other young people that regardless of your age, if you are truly passionate about something, you can make it work.”
Mr. Henniffent will compete in the national leg of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards competition in Vancouver next month, and a win there will advance him to the international round, which will be held in Germany.
“The caliber of business and entrepreneurs will be a lot higher,” he said of the upcoming competition.
“I’m expecting a lot of technology- and application-based businesses, but I’m really excited to go in, give a good presentation and represent myself, my business and Grenfell Campus in a positive way.”