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‘Harbour station will be full’ for second dream festival

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Photo: Greg Agnew/Times & Transcript

Dave Veale interviews Brad Leblanc, Chief Entrepreneurial Officer, Momentum Group as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.

It’s not surprising that Brad LeBlanc has been referred to as
“the new Donald Trump – with red hair.”

Brad LeBlanc says a second Dream Festival is planned for Saint John.

His entrepreneurial career began at a fast food restaurant at the age 10. This is when he quickly realized that he needed to be his own boss. Shortly thereafter he started his first company, Engaging Entertainment, a simple one-man DJ business that turned into an operation that included live entertainment and event planning. From an early age, this tenacibrad leblanc cropped.jpgous fellow was committed to persevering in a business world that he feels often puts roadblocks up for young entrepreneurs.

Fast forward to 2011, where, at 22, Brad is now Chief Entrepreneuri al Officer at Momentum Group, a company he started in 2009 with a purpose to host events that inspir e. Momentum Group is self-described as existing “in a world where unconventional has become the new norm, we are attractive to those who are looking to stand out, be different, and embrace change.’

This attitude helped Brad and his team put together the extraordinary Atlantic Dream Festival featuring Sir Richard Branson, Kevin O’Leary, Clara Hughes and Frank McKenna. Brad’s goal of ‘standing out’ was certainly accomplished by this event that he told me led to both praise and some stinging criticism.

I started our interview by asking him about who inspires him.

A: Many people inspire me. Certainly Richard Branson, who I had the privilege of meeting, inspires me. But what inspires me the most is when people who have nothing risk it all and when people are willing to be fearless and be reckless and be creative and to fight for what they want. It is not just a business, we are changing lives. I love my job and I am inspired every day.

Q: It seems that perseverance is part of your DNA. Can you tell me about this?

A: That’s probably a question I couldn’t have answered a few months ago. I often get asked how I keep going. I have a thirst for the impossible. Before I could walk or talk, I feel that somebody gave up on me. I was put up for adoption. Luckily I was adopted by two phenomenal people who I owe everything to, but I do feel that someone gave up on me. So, I will never give up on something or someone I believe in. My adoptive parents, who I love dearly, have never given up on me no matter what kind of trouble I got in to, no matter how bad my grades were, no matter how terribly my projects tanked.

Q: Would you consider yourself a provocative guy?

A: I would be a thought-provoking guy. I am never an insulting guy. I’m never a judgmental guy. I will stand up for what I believe in and I will do what I have to, to succeed.

Q: You mentioned to me that you occasionally deal with critics. What do you feel provokes criticism of you and your vision?

A: I heard this expression from a very successful entrepreneur for the first time a few months ago. “In New Brunswick we eat our young.” I said “What? What do you mean?” I have lots of people who have supported me but at the same time I have a pile of critics and my critics tend to be traditionalists, or people who are politically involved somehow. That’s typically the people who don’t like me.

Q: So “We eat our young.” Can you tell me more about that?

A: Sure. We pulled off the Dream Festival, which was a dream come true for us and it will continue to happen bi-annually. We brought Richard Branson and all these speakers in and we put 5,000 people through. It was incredibly inspiring. Many calls came, praise and criticism, but then a call came one day from a community leader and they congratulated me on my success with the Dream Festival. They then recommended that I never do anything like it ever again, because they didn’t like what I had to say when I spoke at the event. I never meant to insult anyone and if I did I will take full blame because that is the opposite of why we exist. At that moment, I understood what “In New Brunswick, we eat our young” means.

Q: That must have been hard, how did you respond to this criticism?

A: I was happy that we had done the Dream Festival, which brought in 1,200 students as well as one of the biggest entrepreneurial drivers in existence to our region. I know it wasn’t 100 percent perfect. It was hard to hear that someone didn’t like what I had to say. I actually cried. I broke down because we had worked so hard to pull this event off.

Q: How have you dealt with the positive and negative feedback you have received?

A: The feedback has inspired the topic of our next event – perseverance. Perseverance, entrepreneurial thinking and leadership are themes of our next event and I’m happy to say it is going to be as big as the Dream Festival, if not bigger. It is going to happen early this fall, at Harbour Station in Saint John, and the announcement is going to happen on March 31. We’ve got sponsors lined up, we have three incredible speakers from very different walks of life and, the last time our key note speaker spoke in Canada, 30,000 people showed up. So we know Harbour Station will be full.

Q: What’s the best advice you have received?

A: Richard Branson shared something with me – he said “Never burn bridges but, if you have to burn them, burn them royally.”

 Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com. His column appears every other Thursday. To read past columns go to www.LeadershipUnleashed.ca

Published in the Telegraph Journal, Thursday March 24th, 2011

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