Every year, Edify magazine shares its Top 40 Under 40 – a group of Edmontonians who are making an impact on our city. This year, seven MacEwan alumni made the cut, including Matthew Schur. He received a Bachelor of Commerce from MacEwan in 2014, and completed the University Transfer, Bachelor of Arts program in 2005. Now, as the owner of the Old Red Barn, he creates farm-to-table dining experiences highlighting the best that local producers have to offer.

We caught up with him to discuss entrepreneurship, his appreciation for farming and the importance of the journey.

How did your MacEwan experience help get you to where you are now?

From a young age it was clear that I have an entrepreneurial spirit. In my early twenties, I started a few small business ventures in sporting goods and then in hospitality, which later led me to join Joey Restaurants in a management capacity. While I learned a lot from these experiences, I found I lacked a foundation for business fundamentals. Going to MacEwan gave me the foundation necessary to understand business management and provided me the tools to adapt and compete in the ever-changing business environment.

What lesson did you learn at MacEwan that you still carry with you today?

In the Fall of 2012, I took a class on skills and concepts for leadership. It was taught by a professor named Dawit Isaac. I'll never forget when Dawit wrote on the board a quote by Cervantes: "The journey is better than the inn." I knew this statement was true, but I didn't fully grasp the importance of it at the time. But a decade later, with a few successes and many lessons learned, I can't think of any lesson that is more important. We spend so much of our lives chasing goals and dreams that we often forget to stop and take a second to appreciate the journey along the way. Whether it be personal, professional or lifestyle goals they all have challenges and take time and work to achieve success. Learning to enjoy the journey will make those dreams more enjoyable and attainable.

Why are you passionate about what you do?

My passion for the Old Red Barn comes from eight years spent in the hospitality industry. During my time in hospitality, I fell in love with the beauty of being able to be a part of people celebrating life. Sharing great food and conversation is something that fills my soul, provides me with a sense of gratitude and makes me feel alive.

After leaving the industry and marrying into a farming family, I received an education on what it takes to get food from farm to plate. I came to know how hard farmers work so we can enjoy the foods we love. As a result, I now have a deeper appreciation for food. Now when I eat a creamy piece of mozzarella or a perfectly cooked steak I think of the hours that went into making these products and the farmer that produced the ingredients. It has given me a different perspective on how lucky we are to live in Canada, and I want to share this message with as many people as possible. 

What are you looking forward to in the future?

Continuing to share the story of the farmer and bridging the gap between producer and consumers in terms of where their food comes from and what it takes to get it to them. I hope to be part of the solution for people to be able to easily access local food products directly from the source, and to allow them to have confidence in food systems here in Alberta.

What advice would you give to current MacEwan students?

Step back and appreciate the journey in all your pursuits, especially your experience at MacEwan. Enjoy the late nights and long hours in the library studying with your classmates – one day you might miss having time to read quietly later on in your life.  Be sure to grab a beverage or coffee with your classmates at Towers every once in a while. Life is busy, especially as a student, but I encourage you to celebrate your small wins at each stage and build a network of people who will support you in your journey. The time will come soon enough when you are walking across the stage to receive your degree, and then life will begin to speed up very quickly. Learning to appreciate and love the journey will lead to a lifetime of happiness as well as a better chance of success in your professional lives. 

As a final piece of advice, when determining what your final "inn" is,  dream as big as possible and plan for some pit stops along the way.

Read Matthew's Top 40 Under 40 Profile.

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