Mount Royal University Student Named Calgary’s EO Entrepreneur of the Year for the 4th Consecutive Year
Ryan Wenger the Founder of Barrow Espresso
By Jenn MacDonald
While in his last year of high school, Ryan Wenger, a young and curious individual noticed that his high school’s bookstore located under the stairs lacked the potential to be a hub for true community. Realizing this was an opportunity, Ryan started volunteering his time. The bookstore, which actually sold mainly candy, pop and slurpees, was the beginning of a thrilling entrepreneurial journey. While others were on the football team or in the chess club, Ryan was learning the fundamentals of what it takes to run and grow a successful business. He woke up each morning, stocked the shelves, ordered inventory, and made sure the slurpee machine was fired up just in time for the noon lunch bell. In one year, Ryan took the unsuccessful, underutilized bookstore brought it out of the red.
Today, we know and appreciate Ryan as our source of caffeine, ironically located under the Bissett School of Business stairs. But Ryan’s story as the Founder of Barrow doesn’t start at Mount Royal. In fact, the journey entails the connection of a series of dots, joined to create a wonderful and successful venture.
While traveling in Australia, Ryan discovered the concept of a micro cafe. “They were everywhere and they just made sense” says Ryan. “These small footprint cafe’s were in train stations, in malls, and on the corner high traffic intersections.”
Upon arriving back in Canada, Ryan decided to try his hand at refurbishing old coffee machines purchased at auctions. As a red seal mechanic, he figured this was an attainable first step into the coffee industry. Unfortunately, what Ryan discovered was that established, franchised coffee shops with too much money to spend weren’t looking to buy used machines, regardless of their re-found life. Ryan chalked this up to a life lesson and a tool on his entrepreneurial tool belt, and moved on.
As he was walking through the halls of Mount Royal University, he kept passing an old coffee cart tucked away under the stairs in a dark hallway on the main campus. The cart couldn’t help but bring his mind back to the concept of a micro cafe. A small footprint and low overhead coffee shop, roasting only the finest beans and steeping remarkable tea.
Ryan reached out to the university to ask if he could buy the cart. They said no, but told him they were in the process of looking for a way to test whether or not a coffee shop was viable in the business school. With a basement full of refurbished coffee machines, Ryan stepped up to the challenge, building a stunning micro cafe, Barrow Espresso.
On November 8 2017, Ryan shared his story with a panel of 7 esteemed judges and was named Calgary’s EO Entrepreneur of the Year.
“If you had asked me one year ago today if I’d be standing here I would have told you that you were crazy.”
Ryan is the fourth Mount Royal student to be given the honored title Calgary’s EO Entrepreneur of the Year in the past four consecutive years. His preceders include Derek Rucki, the Founder of TLink Golf, Paul Shumlich, the Founder of Deepwater Farms, and Ozzy Lang, the Founder of Green Cup. This is a true testament to the fact that Mount Royal has created a platform for the next generation of successful entrepreneurs to launch themselves and their business into the world.
In between hiring new staff, building a second location in the new Riddell library, attending class, and being a Husband and Father, Ryan will be travelling to Montreal to compete at the EO’s national pitch competition. He also won $5,000 to put towards his venture. A humble reward for the hard work and impressive vision.
Mount Royal University offers an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Minor to students from across Mount Royal. The perfect complimentary program to any degree across campus. Recognizing the demand and success of the students in the program, the school launched a concentration in Innovation and Entrepreneurship for students in the BBA program.
Students like Ryan, Derek, Paul and Ozzy can also seek additional help outside of the classroom to accelerate their growth. Students have access to mentorship, funding, and a supportive community through the extracurricular program, the LaunchPad Founders Circle.