University of Calgary

Jets, nuclear power and the family farm

UToday HomeMay 3, 2013

(left to right): Wayne Henuset, Derek Hassay and Keith Brown at the inaugural Wayne Henuset Entrepreneurial Speaker Series luncheon. Photo by Mark Skogen.(left to right): Wayne Henuset, Derek Hassay and Keith Brown at the inaugural Wayne Henuset Entrepreneurial Speaker Series luncheon. Photo by Mark SkogenIf you set out to buy a jet, would you come home with a nuclear power business? And if you owned land but didn’t farm it yourself and were losing money, would you buy more farmland? What would an entrepreneur do?

Such were the questions put to 150 entrepreneurs and executives at an innovative lunch session hosted by the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary downtown campus on Thursday, to showcase the school’s Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and launch the Wayne Henuset Entrepreneurial Speaker Series. Moderated by associate professor of marketing, Derek Hassay, it was a full participation session with the guests challenged to apply entrepreneurial thinking and come up with solutions to actual business scenarios presented by entrepreneurs Wayne Henuset, owner of Willow Park Wines and Keith Brown, owner of Trailtech Inc.

Henuset described a time when he met a man on a tarmac to buy a private jet. In the course of the meeting he discovered that the jet owner was involved in the nuclear power business. Henuset became intrigued by the potential for nuclear in Alberta.

Brown had a dilemma over the family farm which his father and grandfather had worked before him. He didn’t work the land himself, but rented it out and his holdings were too small to operate profitably. His options were to sell the family heritage or buy more land to achieve a critical mass that would allow profitable operations; his major obstacle, farming the land.

The audience was challenged to suggest what the entrepreneurs should or did do next.

Following lively table debate, guests had the opportunity to present their “story endings” and then Henuset and Brown divulged what actually happened. In the end, Brown did not sell the family farm. He more than quadrupled his acreage, rented it out to reliable farmers, and today is a “happy farmer” who enjoys considerable profit. Henuset did not disclose whether he bought the jet but he did get into the nuclear power business and subsequently divested at a profit.

Hassay noted that both men approached their business case with entrepreneurial thinking. They recognized and seized the opportunity, acted immediately, researched and did due diligence, consulted with trusted advisers and found innovative solutions. He pointed out that this is the kind of thinking that the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will help teach to students at Haskayne.

The Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation was launched at the Haskayne School of Business in February 2013, with a $5 million gift from Doug and Diane Hunter, and $1 million gifts from each of Wayne Henuset, Charlie Locke and Dave Robson as well as a significant gift from Keith Brown. The centre supports one of the three keystones of the school’s strategic plan and will offer academic and research programs focused on entrepreneurship and innovation as well as provide support for professional networks for students and new entrepreneurs. A Video can be viewed here:


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