BC Business’ 30 Under 30: UBC Sauder alumni set the bar high

Posted 2018-06-05

Brianna Blaney, James Clift and Dhruv Sood aren’t even 30 yet, but the UBC Sauder alums are already making an impressive mark in British Columbia’s business world.

Recently named to BC Business magazine’s 2018 30 Under 30 list, the trio have each successfully built companies with a social purpose – whether it’s helping small companies recruit talented staff or working with customers to improve their online résumé or portfolio. These grads are creating new value in the marketplace and are poised to take B.C. in new directions.

Brianna Blaney Profile

*Photo credit: Sasha Blaney Photography

How did UBC Sauder help you with your career goals?

There are so many ways UBC Sauder helped me; I developed an appetite for measured risk, learned how to identify opportunities, expanded my network, gained the confidence to say yes to opportunities, and strengthened my presentation skills – the latter of which has been awesome for public speaking and business development.

One of the classes that had a direct impact on my business was The Sauder d.Studio,where we used design thinking. In fact, I’ve used many of the concepts from that class to help me develop deepND, a new venture I’m working on.

I’ve also been very lucky to stay involved with UBC Sauder since graduating by mentoring students. After each interaction, I always leave feeling inspired and like I’ve learned something new. Their energy and curiosity are contagious!

What does it mean to you to be part of BC Business’ 30 Under 30 list?

It’s incredibly humbling to be named alongside so many dedicated, innovative and successful young professionals on this year’s BC Business 30 Under 30 list.

Although it was my name included in the list, it’s so much bigger than recognition for me; I’m so proud to see the hard work our team has done to build Envol get acknowledged. We took a risk when we launched Envol by challenging a very established, outdated and old-school industry. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the risks pay off, and our radically different model receiving recognition.

What advice would you give to undergraduate students hoping to start their own business?

There’s a great Richard Branson quote I live by: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

I would advise students to really understand what they want to get out of creating a business so they can achieve their goals in the long term. Learn from your mistakes and evolve. Instead of asking why, ask why not? Challenge existing models and think beyond the current frameworks of how we operate in business and in the world. This is where true disruption happens.

You have all the time in the world, but no time to waste. Get started!

James Clift Profile

*Photo credit: Lindsay Siu

What inspired you to start your business?

I built a previous product in the HR technology sector that helped employers find suitable candidates for their jobs. In building that product, my team identified a problem we were more passionate about, which was helping individuals grow their careers. We pivoted from the employer side of the job market to the individual.

Career-wise, I've also dabbled in my own companies (window cleaning, web app development, office composting). I’ve never had any intention of pursuing a traditional career path.

How did UBC Sauder help you with your career goals?

My final class at UBC Sauder was New Venture Design, which led me to meeting my business partners and starting a company after university, instead of pursuing a traditional career path. If not for that class, I'm not sure what I would have done. Furthermore, UBC Sauder provided me with a good business foundation in marketing, sales, accounting, and finance, so I could be literate in the world of business.

What advice would you give to undergraduate students hoping to start their own business?

Start something now. You're not going to learn anything at school that will give you the confidence to start a venture, so stop waiting. If you truly want to start your own company, you need to start creating things on your own. It doesn't have to be a business at first - it could be an event or even a blog. You need to learn the joy of selling something that you've created from scratch, whether it’s a membership, a widget or an app. Until that happens, it's hard to understand how to start a company. Once you make your first sale, the world opens up just a little bit.

Dhruv Sood Profile

How did UBC Sauder help you with your career goals?

UBC Sauder gave me the skills and experience to move towards my career goal of advancing within the finance industry. However, once I took a break from that to start Fresh Prep, I realized that UBC Sauder had also instilled within me a confidence to move into unchartered territories and learn new skills, which proved to be more important than anything.

What does it mean to you to be part of BC Business’ 30 Under 30 list?

It’s nice to be recognized for our efforts and the award puts our company on the map. We stepped into a completely new industry and built our business in a way the industry hasn't been building, so being recognized by the business community gives us the reassurance that we aren't completely crazy.

What advice would you give to undergraduate students hoping to start their own business?

Do it. It has never been easier to start a business, and being so young you will never face less risk than you do now. Regardless of where the business goes, if you give it everything you have, you will never regret the decision.