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Naval officer Scott Harrigan makes glow-in-the-dark products as well as dog leashes. (Scott Munn For The Globe and Mail)
Naval officer Scott Harrigan makes glow-in-the-dark products as well as dog leashes. (Scott Munn For The Globe and Mail)

A dog-leash entrepreneur’s royal benefactor Add to ...

Scott Harrigan, a young naval officer, designs and manufactures dog leashes from parachute cord inspired by knots he learned on the ships – and he’s doing this with help from a royal benefactor, the Prince of Wales.

After 23 years in the Royal Canadian Navy, including serving nearly a year in Afghanistan and eight months in Haiti after the earthquake, Lt. Harrigan wants to leave the military and unleash his dog-leash business on the world.

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The Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE), a made-in-Canada initiative, one of eight supported by Prince Charles’s Prince’s Charities Canada, is giving him the tools along with, he hopes, a $45,000 low-interest loan.

Lt. Harrigan is meeting the Prince in Halifax on Monday to talk to him about how the program has helped him so far.

Prince Charles is making his four-day visit to Canada, in part, to be briefed on the progress of his charitable initiatives, which in 2010 came under the auspices of Prince’s Charities Canada (PCC). It raised $1.4-million last year for its programs that run the gamut from helping entrepreneurial military personnel, to aboriginal initiatives and social and corporate responsibility programs.

In Britain, his charities raise more than $200-million every year and employ nearly 2,000 people.

“As a military member, especially an officer … they groom you to be a middle manager,” says Lt. Harrigan, who has a second business that uses glow-in-the-dark materials to make items, including safety vests and lifebuoys. “You know about budgets, you know about human resources but you don’t get into the specifics of writing financial projections for the next three years.”

POE is a $500,000-a-year program, supported by foundations and some individuals, which started in 2012 to help military men and women make the transition from service to the business world. It encourages entrepreneurship. Participants spend a week-long “boot camp” with business professors and students at one of three university campuses in the country that participate. After graduation, a mentor in the community is also provided – and there is the startup loan. All of the professors and mentors are volunteers.

So far, 41 businesses have been created, including the dog-leash business, a survival school, a software venture and a fitness and nutrition company. One former special forces officer wants to start a bed and breakfast in northern New Brunswick.

Amanda Sherrington, president of Prince’s Charities Canada, says the POE embodies two of the Prince’s great passions – “One of which is his support for the military and his concern for individuals and what they do after they move on to their next career, obviously being a father of military people, himself. But also his great interest in young people and the talents of young people.”

In Winnipeg, the Prince will meet with business leaders from across the country involved in his Seeing is Believing initiative. It challenges CEOs to think beyond philanthropy and look at hiring practices and procurement policies that can make a difference in the community.

Michael Shapcott, director of business and community initiatives for the PCC, describes how 12 senior Bay Street leaders met one-on-one with urban aboriginal youth in September, 2012. “We know there are a lot of stereotypes, a lot of misconceptions about urban aboriginal youth,” he said. “We wanted the business leaders to actually meet with them and understand in practical ways the challenges arising out of that.”

The youth weren’t being given a chance at entry-level jobs, and as a result, two CEOs took up the challenge to hire the young people. As of October, 2013, nearly 20 youth have found jobs through Seeing is Believing.

For Lt. Harrigan, meanwhile, this will be the third time he’ll meet the Prince – the first was in 1983 when Prince Charles and his late wife, Diana, came to his hometown, Dalhousie, N.B. Lt. Harrigan was six years old and handed the Prince a bouquet.

In 2012, he met the Prince again as he was about to start the entrepreneurial boot camp and talked about his idea. Lt. Harrigan even sent six of his colourful, nautical-inspired leashes to the Queen to use when walking the royal corgis.

A note came back from her executive assistant thanking him for the gift – but noting that the Queen “would never” put her dogs on a “lead.” His leashes were auctioned off to the household staff.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

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