Mike Miltmore's Riversong Guitars are in such demand he's looking for ways to fill a backlog.

Mike Miltmore's Riversong Guitars are in such demand he's looking for ways to fill a backlog.

BDC Young Entrepreneur Awards push locals to get serious about business

Mike Miltmore, of Lee's Music, came second in the nationwide competition for 2012 and now he's promoting it for 2013

  • Feb. 28, 2013 11:00 a.m.

Mike Miltmore of Riversong Guitars could not be doing better if he tried.

Named the BC Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012 by the Business Development Bank of Canada, and given the opportunity to compete on a national level to become the Canadian Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Miltmore has set the guitar he invented on a track he could never have imagined.

And he’s sure someone else can repeat his success as the contest gets underway for 2013.

“It’s just been wild. Life is just fantastic for Mike Miltmore and Riversong Guitars,” he said. “…And the BDC has been such a big support.”

Miltmore and his family own Lee’s Music in Kamloops and off Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. In the course of working with the luthiers at his business, the young entrepreneur realized that someone needed to create a guitar anyone could simply and consistently replicate at a lower price point.

He did some fiddling and soon honed in on a streamlined method of building the instruments, shaving hundreds of hours off the initial assembly and lifetime tuning  by creating two pieces he can mass produce and fit together without the need for bracing.

He reduced the force from the strings so the guitar has less tuning fluctuation and focused on finding a way to ensure the same instrument can be made to the same specifications by anyone with basic the training he can provide.

The whole building process now takes 24 hours—or really the course of an eight-hour shift—rather than the 100 hours it usually takes a luthier. And it virtually eliminates the waste when a guitar just doesn’t come out sounding quite right.

“I call it progressive traditionalism,” Miltmore told the **Capital New** as he toured Southern B.C. last spring trying to drum-up votes for his invention.

The BDC’s national contest focuses on pushing its contestants to promote their product, particularly with new media and technology.

“Young entrepreneurs appear to be motivated by a desire to grow,” explained Fiona Chan, Kamloops BDC.

Without major capital or a career of experience and connections to draw on, young entrepreneurs must rely on some of the other innovations readily available to them—like harnessing the power of social media and technological innovations that save on man hours, Chan pointed out.

According to Statistics Canada, the Thompson-Okanagan leads the way in small business growth in B.C., and nationwide, with Kelowna ranking 13th in the country.

Between 2007 and 2011, the region grew by 3,500 businesses and Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton fared nearly as well. Entrepreneurship is a significant portion of the economy and its important for the area and the nation to foster.

This competition pushes those who enter to really examine their business plan, acquire the business training to fill in any gaps in knowledge and build a portfolio to prove success, Chan said.

“The exercise makes you think better,” she added, noting thinking ahead of the curve often has to replace vast resources for those in an younger set.

And thinking ahead, around and along the curve of his guitar has certainly proved a winning number for Miltmore. Asked if he would do it again, the now 36-year-old business owner said he would sign on in a heartbeat.

“I feel like I was born for this contest,”he said, noting his second place national finish netted him $25,000 in products and services.

Calling Premier Christy Clark before Paul McCartney arrived in B.C., he has since managed to get one of his guitars in the rock legend’s hands. Worship Magazine has also named his product one of the top five most interesting finds at a huge guitar trade show in Vegas called NAMM.

Anyone interested in the BDO contest must already have a business, and fall between the ages of 19 and 35 years old.

The contest challenges those entrepreneurs who find themselves at a crossroads to generate a solution and pitch that solution to the BDC for a chance to win $100,000.

The contest closes Apr. 2 at noon.

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