Liz MacRae, Co-Founder and Head of Partnerships, and her team at Village Wellth are paving the way to a lesser-known path to entrepreneurship. Their marketplace, known as a search engine for verified business buyers, is modernizing an underground, outdated industry.
Liz’s path to entrepreneurship wasn’t obvious – though they rarely are.
After getting an education in fine arts, she decided to get a “JOB” in marketing, before purchasing a franchise in 2012. Since then, she’s acquired and exited two companies, as well as worked in transaction services as a business broker between buyers and sellers and as an exit planning advisor.
It wasn’t always easy though. In 2017, Liz and her husband sold their mobile tire business after a few years. She says the decision to purchase the franchise was made with “rose coloured glasses”.
“We didn't do our due diligence. We jumped in way too fast and we over invested and underestimated how long it was going to take to build a business,” she says.
The experience taught her about what goes into building and selling a business, and led her to the role at a business brokerage where she built up a team of advisors and sub-contractors. By the end of her time at that stint, her team was selling technology companies up to 10 million in enterprise value.
It was during this time that Liz connected with now-cofounder Rob Irwin, and they started chatting about the complexities of buying and selling businesses.
They saw that a lot of people don’t know about acquisition entrepreneurship – which is where you enter entrepreneurship through buying an established business – and even those who know about it have a hard time navigating the underground and confidential nature of it.
These conversations were the impetus for starting what is now Village Wellth, a search engine of verified business buyers.
“It was very serendipitous. Rob and I spent probably about four months back and forth in the evenings on email, in Google Docs, just brainstorming,” she says.
“And then I just remember there was this moment and I was like, **** it, let's do it.”
By early 2020, they had their founding team of four.
What is Village Wellth?
Village Wellth gives people selling businesses the ability to search and connect with verified buyers through a two-sided marketplace, (a platform that brings buyers and sellers together to create and exchange value).
“When it comes to selling a small business it's not like you're selling a piece of property where it goes on MLS and you shout it from the rooftops.”
Typically when a business is being sold, it’s confidential, and it’s hard to sell something when you’re not telling anyone it’s for sale. Additionally, a lot of the methods being used are outdated or inefficient.
Why buy a business?
Acquisition entrepreneurship is when someone buys and grows an established small business, rather than starting from scratch.
“There's a lot of people who want to get into business, but who are never going to do a startup. It's too risky or they don't have an idea.”
By buying a business that already exists, entrepreneurs skip the first three to five year struggle of being in a startup. Additionally, this entrepreneurial path has access to financing from banks, making it a financially safer choice.
In November 2022, they launched subsidiary AquireWell which helps first time buyers get pre-qualified, resulting in an accelerated path to financing.
Additionally, they’re looking forward to raising money again in 2023 after a successful 400K pre-seed round in the fall of 2021.
And to help them get there, they’ve been enjoying being a part of Platform’s first Incubator cohort.
Liz says while it’s not the first time the team has been part of a startup, it’s the first time they’ve all “gotten this far,” and the Incubator has offered a valuable sense of community, direction and accountability.
And while they’re now official Platform Members, Village Wellth has been a part of the community for a while. They were one of Launch Party 2021’s Top 10 Startups, and have been spending time at the Platform Innovation Centre since it opened.
“When the building first opened up, it was funny because we were just kind of using the space, but we weren't sure if we were allowed to be here. We just started squatting.”
“Now [that we’re members] our team comes and meets here and we get to feel a part of the ecosystem. It's a really amazing sense of community.”
Village Wellth is part of Platform’s first Incubator cohort. This program helps founders move their startups from experimentation to a process-driven business. Founders work closely with an entrepreneur in-residence, a community of mentors and other startup founders to scale their business over 18 months. Learn more about the Platform Incubator program.