- Shanthal Perera
- Oct 2, 2017
For many years, we have been warned about the future challenges related to Canada’s aging population. The baby boomer generation has played a major role in elevating the Canadian economy to what it is today. However, as many of them prepare for retirement, analyst expect greater pressure on the younger working classes to sustain the social programs and fill the gap left by one of the most important generations in human history.
These challenges require the type of innovating thinking entrepreneurs excel at and where problems abound, so will solutions.
Aris Economopoulos, HBA ’11, sees the problem from both angles. He is the Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategy at Boomerswork.com, an online platform that connects baby boomers and retirees possessing leadership skills and corporate experience with employers seeking qualified talent on short-term work contracts.
Co-founded by Halifax-based serial entrepreneur Rick Emberley in 2013, Economopoulos is leading the company’s rebranded expansion into the Ontario market as BoomersPlus.com. His team estimates that over 10 percent of Ontario’s 4.5 million boomers have the type of corporate experience that fit their platform. Companies all over the world are looking for experienced talent with vetted leadership and soft skills, and there are many retiring boomers who are attracted to the idea of flexible, short-term contracts.
Economopoulos elaborates on one of their most intriguing success stories, where they were able to connect a CFO with 15 years of corporate experience in Atlantic Canada, with an opportunity in Oman to institute North American accounting procedures during a 4-month contract.
“It was an adventure for him and his wife and the company was really satisfied as they got a knowledgeable person at a fraction of the cost of getting someone on a two-year contract to build the entire system,” said Economopoulos.
Evolving beyond employment
During the past two years, the company started picking up traction in the Atlantic Canada market. With that success came an eagerness to expand the concept into new territories, which the team eventually decided would be Ontario.
Compared to regular recruitment agencies that can charge between 20-30% of a contract’s value, BoomersPlus does not take a percentage from its retirees but charges a flat fee to companies for generating lists of qualified candidates who fit a job’s selection criteria.
Economopoulos thanks his experience with crowdfunding platform, NexusCrowd, in helping him visualize the nuances of dealing with a two-sided marketplace.
“You have to market two totally separate marketing campaigns, hopefully, test your understanding of the user bases, acquire each in a sensitive noninvasive way and then bring them together in an online experience,” said Economopoulos.
While the short-term vision remains to match recent retirees with flexible employment opportunities, the company’s success with their East Coast userbase has offered a glimpse into what BoomersPlus could become.
“We began our relationship with our users by helping them get interesting work opportunities but that’s not all our users have asked us for. They are asking us for lifestyle content, deals on local events, travel promotions and insurance,” said Economopoulos.
With the wide range of queries and unique demands, Economopoulos envisions the future for BoomersPlus as an online lifestyle destination for boomers and recent retirees, with localized events and opportunities.
“It’s like a social network without the fluff, but with rich and slower content,” said Economopoulos.
Still, Economopoulos is not willing to get lost in the big picture vision. He knows that lending an execution-driven focus to well-detailed plans will be integral to BoomersPlus’ success in a new market.
Keeping the Ideas rolling
Economopoulos was always interested in finance and entrepreneurship while at Ivey, which is reflected in his work experience in private equity. He also co-founded Blue Acre Capital in 2013, which explores real estate investments in Toronto.
One of his favourite classroom exercises came from Rob Mitchell’s New Venture Creation course, where all the students were asked to keep an idea journal to jot down innovative ideas and harebrained schemes.
“It was basically about producing the best ideas you could find, putting them in front of others and having people challenge those ideas to see if they would be marketable,” said Economopoulos.
Penning down those elusive thoughts really helped Economopoulos stay focused on his work and seriously look into the viability of the ideas frequently generated in the classroom.
Ideas take up space in one’s mind and can be a distraction to the work at hand. The buzz and excitement of a “great idea” can be intoxicating. Economopoulos credits Mitchell’s process to helping him manage the excitement and “getting real” with what it would take to go to market and compete with other ventures.
Economopoulos still has an idea journal and regularly tracks some of his old ideas, of which some have manifested through other entrepreneurs. Perhaps a few of those will come in hand as they look to expand BoomersPlus across the province.