You have a big idea. A really, really big one. It has something to do with growing food locally and sustainably — reducing waste from travel as produce moves from farm to fridge.
You do some research. You ask some of your profs. You take an entrepreneurship class. You pitch your idea to your peers. You take their thoughts into consideration, step back, regroup, massage and manipulate. You pitch again … to venture capitalists and angel investors at Mount Royal’s JMH LaunchPad Pitch Competition. You earn $30,000 to start your business.
You want to grow food year round aquaponically and farm an unusual breed of fish — in Calgary. You haven’t yet finished university, but you’re going to do what it takes to make this dream a reality.
“From an early day, I always challenged the status quo and I never really wanted to take the typical path,” says Paul Shumlich, MRU alumnus, co-founder of Deepwater Farms and one of the Calgary Herald’s 20 Compelling Calgarians for 2019.
After graduating in 2017 with a Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management and a minor in innovation and entrepreneurship, Shumlich knew he was destined for a different career.
Deepwater Farms is a state-of-the-art aquaponics operation producing fish, greens and herbs with little to no waste. Shumlich saw entrepreneurial opportunities to improve Calgary’s food supply chain and wanted to provide restaurants with year-round, high-quality local ingredients.
It’s that kind of entrepreneurial spirit that Calgary is known for and Mount Royal aims to foster. MRU is home to five institutes that support student growth beyond the classroom and into the community. Shumlich’s experience was made possible through the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which supports development of high-impact talent essential to the continued economic prosperity of Alberta.
"Paul is a perfect example of the entrepreneurial mindset that the Institute fosters in our students,” says Ray de Paul, director, Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “He clearly demonstrates the passion, adaptability and grit that is necessary to succeed in whatever you choose to do in life."
For Shumlich, it’s important to help support and grow the local economy. “For us, ‘local’ implies quality and sustainability. By supporting local, we get to employ more people and keep talent here.”
Shumlich has built partnerships with high-end restaurants in Calgary that share a passion for local, sustainable and unique ingredients. One restaurant, Yellow Door Bistro with the Hotel Arts Group, shares this philosophy with Deepwater Farms.
“We are trying to support Calgary’s economy and buying local has always been important to us,” says Quinn Staple, executive chef, Hotel Arts Group. “We are always looking for purveyors who have unique products and something we can showcase.”
The Yellow Door Bistro features Deepwater Farms on their menu, serving local business growth and consumers — providing local and sustainable products Calgarians crave.
Shumlich believes his entrepreneurial success has come from the skills he learned through his experience at MRU. “Going to Mount Royal in the entrepreneurship program made it easy to understand how to approach the problems that we saw existing in the world. It gave me tangible steps to proceed and solve the next problem.
“The door opened and it was a natural progression from school to where we are now.”