New BioNB Team Member Sees Export Opportunities for New Brunswick CompaniesMeet Joey Volpé, BioNB`s New International Business Development Officer Jenny Keleher February 20, 2017
Meet Joey Volpé: the newest member of the BioNB team, a former cargo ship deck hand, and the owner of at least 3 advanced degrees. His fun-loving nature and connection with the Francophone community in Northern New Brunswick has helped expand what we know about bioscience in the province.
What does a typical day look like as the IBDO (International Business Development Officer) at BioNB?
A typical day is spent meeting with businesses to understand their needs and goals, and providing them with the tools and information they need to develop export markets. Sometimes I can help businesses by putting them into contact with the right person, and other times I need to do some digging to help them find the right information.
Our team at BioNB works hard to communicate information and export opportunities within the bioscience sector. We also develop simple and effective training tools to help businesses conquer new markets. Like the rest of the team at BioNB what happens during a typical day changes from one to the next, but we try to focus as much as possible on understanding the needs of businesses within the bioscience sphere and spend our days doing what we can to support them.
What skills do you bring to the role?
I have a diverse background in business development and innovation. I’ve worked in the private and public sector as well as in academia. Being a business founder and owner myself, I have a very practical and result-driven mindset. I graduated from McGill with a Bachelor in Industrial Relations and I have a Bachelor of Law and a Masters in Environmental Studies from l’Université de Moncton. I also completed courses and certifications in sales and marketing.
In terms of my role as an IBDO I think one of the most important things I bring to the table is my research experience and results-driven mindset. I can help businesses sort through large amounts of information quickly to help them get to the core of things. I also have solid knowledge when it comes to funding and programs that companies can access to grow their business.
That being said, I am always very humble in terms of what I bring to the table. Entrepreneurs are very smart and passionate people. If I can help them by leveraging my skill set I am more than happy to do so but ultimately, they are the creators and developers. My role is to support them in whatever capacity they see fit.
What would New Brunswickers be surprised to learn about the companies you meet day to day?
New Brunswickers would be surprised to learn how many small businesses are operating on the world stage. We often think of globalization as an abstract concept that applies only to large multinational companies. However, our province’s smaller companies are increasingly export driven. The fact that the market here at home is so small pushes our businesses to look elsewhere for market opportunities. Some of our small businesses have impressive export expertise in specialized markets.
Some of our small businesses have impressive export expertise in specialized markets.
I think people would also be surprised to learn about the innovation that is going on in the province. Every week I am amazed at the number of great ideas that come out of our small province. At BioNB we aim to support businesses that have new ideas, processes and products. Our team strongly believes that the future economic success of the province depends on it.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing New Brunswick companies looking to export?
The red tape that applies to exporting products to another country is a major concern for businesses – especially small businesses and start-ups. Navigating the maze of legal requirements is time consuming when you are trying to develop a new market.
It can also be difficult to find the right expertise within the province to help you understand foreign markets. This is particularly true in the bioscience space, which contains many highly regulated sub-sectors. Language and culture are also important barriers of entry within certain markets.
In your opinion, what is the biggest opportunity for New Brunswick companies looking to export?
There are currently many opportunities on the export front. I think New Brunswick’s small businesses sometimes under estimate our potential in terms of exporting value added products and technologies into specialty markets. As a province, we certainly must keep exporting our commodities like lumber, paper, petrol products, etc. But the real opportunity lies in adding value and developing technologies around our traditional sectors – value added maple products, blueberry extracts, ICT technologies around forestry and agriculture, biotechnology and value added biomass transformation just to name a few.
There are also new emerging markets like Europe with whom Canada has recently signed an important trade agreement. Asia is also an interesting market, but a bit more complicated. There are many export opportunities for small businesses, but they should not be pursued blindly. Developing new markets can be expensive and time consuming so sizing opportunities before making a decision is extremely important. This is one aspect where the team at BioNB can help.
Before working at BioNB, what was the most interesting or unusual job you had?
I would have to say that it was working as a deck hand on a cargo ship that travelled to North America, the Caribbean and South America. When the opportunity arose I had just graduated university and was working in human resources for a large multinational company. I didn’t hesitate to take the job much to the surprise of my friends that were eager to build a career. The funny thing was that my parents pointed out the opportunity and encouraged me to take it. Looking back I think they knew building character was much more important than building a career.
Looking back I think they knew building character was much more important than building a career.
It was gruelling work and long hours under the hot sun followed by freezing weather on the Bay of Fundy, but seeing a good chunk of the world from that perspective was an amazing experience. We always had between five and ten nationalities on the ship and we had stops in over 15 countries. I learned a lot very fast. Working on a cargo ship and docking in industrial cities gives you a much different experience than going to Venezuela to drink margaritas on an exclusive resort. The people I worked with on the ship were extremely nice to me even though we could barely communicate at the beginning… not to mention the fact that I had never been on a ship. I learned to work with people from all places and lifestyles. I also learned to be patient and supportive with young people that are starting out.
What do you love most about working as an IBDO for BioNB?
I love working with businesses and doing all I can to support them. Entrepreneurs are really the unsung heroes of our times. Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and staying on top of things is a major challenge for many of them. I am always very humbled by the amazing people that make up our provinces’ business community. I am just happy to play a very small part in it. If I can help a business grow or develop a new market I feel like I am contributing to our social wellbeing.
We sometimes get large corporate business and small business mixed up in the same pot. Small businesses are more often than not just friends and families trying to develop opportunities for themselves and their communities. We need to get our young people to understand that and to realize that building and owning a business is a very noble endeavour that also has important social implications. Without small businesses in this province we could not afford our hospitals and schools. The younger generation need to feel a sense of purpose in what they do. Being a socially responsible entrepreneur is a great way to live a life of purpose and passion. In a nutshell that is what I love about my job.
We need to get our young people to understand that and to realize that building and owning a business is a very noble
Are you a business with products, services, or technologies in value-added food, natural resource transformation, biotechnology, clean technologies, healthcare technologies, or related IT platforms? BioNB wants to hear from you!
International Business Development Officer