Fatkat: a big draw in a small town - Gene Fowler wins BDC's Young Entrepreneur Award for New Brunswick

    MIRAMICHI, NB, Oct. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - From commercials to animated
television series, Gene Fowler's Fatkat, is making a big impact both
internationally and at home. For his success, Gene, 31, has earned BDC's Young
Entrepreneur Award for New Brunswick and will be honoured tonight at a
ceremony in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
    Atlantic Canada's largest animation studio, Fatkat has a staff of 115 and
provides animation services to the television industry as a sub-contractor,
prime contractor, distributor and original author. The company is currently
working on series that include Super Normal, for World Leaders Entertainment
in New York City, Skunk Fu, in cooperation with Cartoon Saloon in Ireland, and
Supa Strikas for Strika Entertainment in South Africa. "Our flagship
co-production, Happy Tree Friends, really put us on the map," says Gene. "It
has a massive following on the Internet."
    Gene, who has been referred to as "The Komeback Kid", started his first
business out of Halifax in 1999. It was quickly taken over by its major
client, San Diego-based Trainingscape. After creating over 40 animated
training films for companies like Nike and Hasbro, Trainingscape pulled the
plug. Gene moved back to his hometown of Miramichi in the fall of 2003 and
soon took an assignment to produce an animated series for television. From
that success, TV production jobs began to pour in and the business gained a
reputation for its world-class quality work, specializing in Flash Animation.

    Creative momentum

    "When I started over, I hired an accountant to take care of all the
financing, and someone to keep the business coming in," says Gene. "We set up
a proper structure with the right people to do the right job. Our presence on
the Internet created momentum and excitement for the business, and pushed us
into new areas. Our blog has enabled us to spread the word about what it's
like to work for Fatkat, making it easy to attract new employees."
    Unlike many other studios, Fatkat's staff is full-time and salaried. And
Gene believes that taking a "leap of faith" that he could provide steady work
for full-time staff is one of his company's greatest strengths. Despite the
growing number of employees, he strives to maintain a family-like work
environment, with many extras such as flexible hours, generous vacation time,
quarterly parties, the Fatkat Oscars and Flash Olympics.
    "Our ultimate goal is to become the premier producer of animated
television comedy series," says Gene. "But at the same time, we want to retain
our small company values. We treat our artists well, pay them fairly, and
never take them for granted." This philosophy helps to explain how Gene has
been able to attract animators from across the country to his Miramichi
studio. "We're slowly turning this town around," says Gene, "and showing that
you can build a business on creative resources rather than on natural
resources only. Local kids are discovering that you can make money drawing
cartoons. Maybe this will keep some of them from moving out of the province."
    "Gene has achieved remarkable success very rapidly. With vision and
confidence he's built a growing operation that is world-class in reputation
and a big boost to the local economy. I congratulate him for this
achievement," says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde.
    "Fatkat is about much more than just the business," says Gene. "It's hope
and inspiration for the area. We're proving that you can do big things in this
little town."

    Young entrepreneurs in the spotlight

    BDC's Young Entrepreneur Awards are a highlight of Small Business Week,
providing the opportunity to honour the entrepreneurial spirit and business
success of Canadians between the ages of 19 and 35. Winners from each province
and territory are selected by a panel based on the originality of their
business concept, its success, growth potential and their community
involvement. The panel also considers the entrepreneur's age when the business
was started and any special challenges that had to be faced.

    Small Business Week partners

    Contributing to the success of this year's Small Business Week and Young
Entrepreneur Awards are the following national sponsors: Western Economic
Diversification Canada, Export Development Canada and Rogers. Privileged
partners are the Pan Canadian Community Futures Group and the Canadian Chamber
of Commerce, which has been a privileged partner of the event since 1981.

    About BDC

    BDC is a financial institution wholly owned by the Government of Canada.
BDC actively supports the development and growth of Canadian small and
medium-sized businesses through its complementary financial, investment and
consulting solutions.BDC is one of Canada's Top 100 Employers for 2008. Visit
www.bdc.ca for more information.
    Small Business Week is a registered trademark of BDC.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange for an interview on October 16:
Media Room: 1-866-515-6033, (204) 985-6251; After October 16: Johanne
Bissonnette, Media Relations Manager, (514) 283-7929

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