People of USask: Bryan McCrea and Evan Willoughby

Bryan McCrea (BComm’09) and Evan Willoughby (BE’10) met at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and quickly evolved from business partners to friends.

Bryan McCrea (BComm’09) and Evan Willoughby (BE’10) met at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and quickly evolved from business partners to friends. They entered and won a business plan competition, and now their business of 3twenty is thriving across Canada. They shared their USask story of meeting the right person at the right time: 

Q: Why did you decide to attend the University of Saskatchewan? 

Bryan: I was born and raised in Saskatoon, and it seemed like the most practical option. None of my family members had gone to university before so going to university was not an easy thing. It was the most logical choice, and it helped that my peers and girlfriend, now wife, were going to the U of S.  

Evan: I’m from a small town and I knew I wanted to do engineering, but I wasn’t sure about it. After working a summer job with an engineer, I knew that was for sure what I wanted to do in life. I decided to go to Saskatoon because the University of Saskatchewan had a civil engineering program.  

Q: Why did you decide to choose your major?  

Bryan: I originally planned to be a teacher, so I started off in the College of Arts and Sciences. I ended up taking an economics class.  When I was in that room, I just felt right. I had found my people. I transferred to commerce and remembered liking both marketing and accounting, and ultimately ended up choosing accounting.  

Evan: I loved LEGO as a kid and always had an interest in how things work and how they are built. So, I always knew I would do something in that area. When it was time to choose a major in university, it was between mechanical or civil engineering. I picked the civil road because I was more interested in taking that after first year. 

Q: How did you meet in university?

Bryan: It was a bit of a serendipitous moment. There used to be the Idea competition that was created with funding from the Wilson Centre. I volunteered to go promote the competition in the College of Engineering. It ended up that Evan was the guy working the booth before me. We briefly introduced each other and quickly became business partners. 

Evan: In year three of engineering, I enrolled in the entrepreneurship option, so I had to take a few business classes. In Lee Swanson’s class, we were encouraged to enter the competition. We met in the Geology Building under the dinosaurs and discussed ideas. I had the idea to use shipping containers for buildings, and that’s where the idea of 3twenty Modular was first created.

Q. How did the idea for 3twenty Modular move from a class project to an operating business? 

Bryan: We submitted our business plan to the case competition; it wasn’t very good. For the competition they chose the top 10 business plans to pitch their idea to a panel of judges. We ended up ranking 11 and didn’t make the cut. It happens that one judge, Gord Haddock (BComm’72), lobbied for us to be included, so the Top 10 became the Top 11. We ended up winning first place in the competition.  

Evan: It was a real shock. We won $30,000 and decided to make a prototype with the prize money. After the competition there was a pitch party at the Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence. We talked with W. Brett Wilson, the sponsor of the centre and one of the judges of the competition, and he suggested we pitch the company on Dragon’s Den.  

Bryan: We went on Dragons’ Den and pitched the business and ended up making a deal with Brett. That was 12 years ago now. We’ve come a long way with our business since then.  

Q: What advice would you give to students hoping to become entrepreneurs? 

Evan: Be willing to trust people. Consider what’s the worst thing that can happen if you trust someone, and then take the risk. Because at the end of the day the risks really aren’t that big. Bryan and I really opened our trust to each other from the very beginning.  

Bryan: Students just out of university have the opportunity to take big risks. You may not have any real obligations like a mortgage or family. Take advantage of this time and take the risk. You have to make your own luck. Be willing to go to places and meet people, you never know when the right opportunity will appear at the right time.  

It's the People of USask who enable us to be what the world needs.     

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