Dave Wilkin makes Canadian Top 20 Entrepreneurs Under 30 List

Monday, November 21, 2011

Late nights, hard work pay off for entrepreneur

By Laura Stricker, The Sudbury Star

He's 23-years-old, a Lively native and the founder of a national company with more than 25,000 loyal members.

Dave Wilkin is also the second-youngest person on Profit Magazine's Canadian Top 20 Entrepreneurs Under 30 list.

Wilkin, who was born and raised in Lively and attended Lively District Secondary School, founded Redwood Strategic, and launched CampusPerks.ca, less than two years ago.

I started consulting with different brands in university," he said. "One thing led to another, and now we own one of the largest youth experiential social media marketing agencies in Canada.

"CampusPerks connects brands to influencers and advocates through their passion points," Wilkin said. So it allows sports companies to find athletes, it allows different social companies to find different musicians or socialites. Basically, it allows these companies to find their influencers, and run social media and experiential marketing campaigns through their networks.

We have the largest network of student influencers in Canada. Those influencers allow us to connect brands with meaningful opportunities to work with youth.

His interest in working with young people started in high school, but he really embraced his passion while he was studying biochemistry at the University of Waterloo.

(In university), I ended up launching a national youth initiative for the federal government. From there I worked with a number of different brands to help them understand how they could provide meaningful work and volunteer experiences as students.

A lot of brands looked to us to understand how we could help them connect with youth in a more meaningful way.

Just a few of the brands Wilkin and Redwood Strategic work with are BlackBerry, Domino's Pizza, Loblaws and Microsoft.

When I first started (the company), I was really just focused on changing the way brands work with young people. I knew that youth were extremely influential, and they're also extremely passionate about their activities and their involvement and their communities. I knew that brands were so interested in engaging youth ... I always knew there was a better way of doing it, I'm just happy we found what that way is.

He was thrilled to find out he was one of the winners of the magazine's FuEL (Future Entrepreneurial Leaders) awards.

I was really excited to be, I think, the only person from Northern Ontario, and to be the second-youngest person by a month to win it and to have one of the largest companies out of all the companies that have won it ... Since we launched we've seen such amazing traction with all of the brands that we work with, and now we're going into new geographies and new demographics (CampusPerks is expanding to the United States in 2012). It's amazing to be recognized by Canadians that actually recognize the entrepreneurial success we've had so far.

It took a lot of sweat, hard work and late nights to get Redwood Strategic off the ground, but Wilkin said it was completely worth it.

Starting a company is always a lot of work, but it's definitely the most rewarding thing I've ever done. To get to work with an amazing team, to get to work with amazing clients and see the vision that I really believed in come to life has been nothing but a ton of fun.

Another of passion of his, Northern Ontario, comes across clearly as he speaks.

I would definitely say that being from Lively, Ontario and being 23 years old and running one of the largest companies is a pretty big feat. I think like especially when you're running things out of Toronto, a lot of people don't expect that I'm from a small town up north.

As much as I can, I love to come back north. All of my family and so many of my best friends are back home, and so 100%, Lively and the north is my home.