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Note from the author:

This article has been edited to properly reflect the term ‘resilience’. Resilience is an essential trait of entrepreneurs; however, as explained by one of my respected colleagues, Latasha Calf Robe, resiliency is more than determination and perseverance. Resiliency is complex, and when looked at in this context is best defined as the ability to overcome complex systemic and structural barriers such as economic marginalization, adversity and unequal access, while also navigating the unique challenges of launching a startup.

The piece now uses grit which is defined as, “courage and resolve; strength of character.” Paul, like all entrepreneurs, is most definitely resilient; however, grit more accurately describes the tenacity, the continued perseverance, and the patience it took to get him where he is today.

I am proud to be part of a team at Mount Royal University that holds each other accountable to the language we use and the actions we take. Vulnerability and accountability are uncomfortable, very uncomfortable, but they have the power to moves us forward as a society and to continue the important work of equity and meaningful inclusion in spaces like the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Please stay tuned for a future collaborative piece on resilience.

 

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Mount Royal Alumni Paul Shumlich and the Official Launch of Deepwater Farms 10,000 sq. ft Aquaponics Farm

 

From Curiosity to Scale and Everything In-Between

 

By Emily Knight

 

Grit. As we all start to pay tribute to the difficult, mostly up-hill battle that is starting a new business, this buzzword is taking the entrepreneurship narrative by storm. In this narrative we talk about failing fast and learning from failure, but what does grit really look like?

Grit looks like a founder who while completing his undergrad launched his startup with seed-funding from pitch competitions, flying across the country for small grants to keep the lights on. Grit looks like building relationships and respect with local restaurants from the ground up. Grit looks like running crowdfunding campaigns where rewards valued from $15 - $2,500 are personally packed and delivered. Grit looks like a five-year journey from curiosity, to backyard project, to 10,000 sq. ft commercial farm.

Grit looks like Paul Shumlich, Founder and CEO of Deepwater Farms.

This Calgary-grown business started as a question about how, where, and by who our food is grown while Paul was completing his Bachelor of Business Administration at Mount Royal University. This question launched Paul into the journey of launching Deepwater Farms. In his first two years of startup, Paul pitched in over seven local and national pitch competitions, the first being Mount Royal’s Annual JMH LaunchPad Pitch Competition. Paul walked away with $30,000 in cash and in-kind services thanks to the donations of JMH&Co, Stikeman Elliott LLP, BUSY Foundation, the Mount Royal Institute for Community Prosperity and Institute for Environmental Sustainability. The JMH LaunchPad Pitch Competition will be held for the 7th year running on April 3, 2019.

 

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2015 LaunchPad Pitch Competition Winners. Shumlich pictured 3rd from the right.

 

Paul then went on to pitch in the EO Global Student Entrepreneur Awards competition both regionally and nationally; the provincial, regional and national Enactus Student Entrepreneur Championship; and the ATB BoostR crowdfunding pitch competition (watch his pitch here). Anyone who has prepared for pitch competitions and crowdfunding campaigns knows that this long list is no small feat.

Those pitches and his successful ATB BoostR campaign (boosted for $10,260) allowed Paul to build his pilot farm begin expanding his pilot 3,000 sq. fit farm and continue to build relationships with local restaurants who use his leafy greens in some of Calgary’s favourite dishes. This week, Paul and his team officially launched their new 10,000 sq. ft farm which will be equipt to not only provide fresh produce to chefs, but to all Calgarians. Deepwater Farms is currently running a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign in order to prove that Calgarians want better food, fresher food, and that [Deepwater Farms] can grow it for them, and to scale-up their operations (Indiegogo, Deepwater Farms). 

Deepwater Farms’ team has grown to include another Mount Royal Alumni, Grant Lahring, the team’s Sales and Marketing Manager. Since graduating, Grant has worked for an impressive list of organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Uber.

At Mount Royal University and the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we are proud to say resiliency looks like our students who go on to be changemakers, entrepreneurs and innovators in Calgary and around the world.

Grit is going slow. It is building a foundation of a business that can scale. That can solve problems for people and communities. That can change the way we think about food. Thank you, Paul, for demonstrating what grit really looks like.

 

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The Deepwater Farms Team.