I’ve heard that a lot lately. I used to say it all the time myself. And, a lot of people have been asking me for advice from me with respect to them starting a business (flattered by the way!).
Working for yourself is certainly very rewarding and needless to say it’s great being your own boss. You have no one to answer to but yourself, and the possibilities are endless. You don’t have to wait for the next position to become available for you to be eligible for a pay increase. You don’t (or shouldn’t) dread going into work on Monday. It is a completely different lifestyle than going into an office every day.
I’ve always been the entrepreneurial type. I get bored doing the same thing for an extended period of time, so the idea of working at a desk for someone else for the rest of my life makes me want to curl up into a ball and hide. When I started college, I was working three jobs to pay for my school: as a lifeguard/swimming instructor, restaurant manager, and ICBC Youth Ambassador. I couldn’t do just one thing. Eventually, I had to let one of them go so that I wouldn’t work myself to death. Actually, it worked out well because by the time I moved away to university in Victoria, I didn’t have to work anymore because I had been working as a summer student at Alcan (aluminum smelter plant) in the summers and I made enough money to more or less pay for the rest of my schooling.
I studied at Royal Roads University in Victoria, obtaining a Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management. It was a fantastic program. A friend of mine, Harry Chemko (also from my home town of Terrace) had taken it a few years before I did, and now he owns/runs a software company called Elastic Path Software listed in PROFIT Magazine as #23 in its annual ranking of Canada’s fastest growing companies. A few friends have also taken the RRU program since- it’s very hands on and it’s very intensive. I highly recommend it!
When I finished my degree, Jamie- who is my ex, a business partner, and a fellow Homorazzi cast member- and I, moved to Vancouver together to start our careers. I worked in several different sales & marketing positions and hated it after a while. I ended up deciding that I still had an itch for acting and wanted to study Acting for Film & Television at Vancouver Film School- so that’s what I did. Twelve months later, I was in debt and needed to start working again to pay it off, so what happened next? I went right back into sales and had to forget about acting for the time being.
After about a year and a half, Jamie and I were both working at Ginch Gonch. This underwear company was started by another friend from Terrace and was destined for success. Jamie worked in distribution & logistics (Director of Giving & Receiving), and I worked as an account manager (Director of Trends & Rear Ends) with two others. It turned out to be the best work experience I ever had. Although a rocky road, we accomplished great things. There weren’t many of us there, but the perception to our customers and to the media was that we were this big flashy brand that was totally established. Behind the scenes, it was our blood, sweat, tears, and minimum ten hours a day that were making it all possible and it wasn’t always fun. It was extreme highs and extreme lows.
I loved it and I hated it. I changed the date on my resignation letter several times but never quite ended up quitting. One thing was for sure: the people I worked with were fantastic and are all destined for great things. The founder is also a serial entrepreneur and although due to several circumstances he has moved on from this particular venture he is onto the next and I wish him success in his new venture.
When things were starting to fall apart behind the scenes at Ginch Gonch, Jamie and I decided we were left with no choice but to leave as did the rest of the staff eventually. It was a difficult time, but as they say: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” I couldn’t agree more. (*By the way, Ginch Gonch is now under new ownership, based in Montreal, Canada and is doing great!)
A year prior, I had made several notes in a book about an idea: ” masc.” A men’s skin care and grooming store. Jamie and I both had degrees in commerce specializing in entrepreneurial management and we wanted to own our own business. We wanted to put in the blood, sweat, and tears into something that we would reap the benefits from. At that point, it was nothing but doodles in a notebook. Just an idea.
Having made almost miraculous things happen at Ginch Gonch and learning that you can really do anything you put your mind to, we had harnessed the courage to take the risk and open our own business. Not to mention, when would we ever find ourselves simultaneously unemployed again? The key was to act. Do, do, do. Seriously, what I’ve learned most is that so many people have great ideas, but the problem is that they don’t act on them.
First and foremost, flesh out the idea and make sure it’s a good one. Look for holes in your idea: bounce it off of some of your friends or family. Most importantly, go through the process of writing a business plan. You may need it or a portion of it when it comes to securing a business location, financing, vendors, and more. But, more so it is for yourself. It should act as a guideline for your first year of operation at least. Your break-even analysis will tell you what you need to sell or earn in order to break-even. If you don’t care if your business fails or if you break-even, don’t write a business plan. If forces you to think of everything, and is so crucial in so many ways. Remember, statistics have proven that most businesses fail in the first year.
Once you have a plan, you should look at getting your business name registered, get a domain name, etc. and keep on moving forward with steps like that. Do something everyday that will bring you closer towards your dream of owning your own business. One concern you probably have is: “I don’t have the money to start my own business.” That can definitely be a challenge, but I would venture to say that most people don’t have the money to start a business when they do. But, there are so many ways to obtain financing, and just be creative. You can get grants from the government, a line of credit, loan, credit cards, etc. Spend wisely but just know that you have access to more money than you may think.
When you have your own business, expect it to be exciting and all of that, but also expect to work your butt off and make sacrifices. You can’t spend frivolously like you used to. You will likely end up working seven days a week, for more than 8 hours a day, and you don’t get paid overtime. Know what you are getting into. If you like the punch in/punch out mentality, then owning your own business is not for you.
Oh, and one thing I haven’t touched upon. Opening a business with someone you are in a relationship with. I’m torn about this one. Jamie and I broke up three months after opening. Was it directly related to owning a business together? I don’t think so. We had been working together for three years at Ginch Gonch previously, we worked out together, we hung out together. All of that could have been contributing factors. The important thing to consider is whether you can get through breaking up and still manage the business together? Jamie and I had no choice but to do so. We’re coming up on two years for masc, and we’ve survived this far. Not going to lie: it hasn’t always been easy working together, but at the end of the day we just know each other so well we know how to push each others buttons even when we don’t realize it. We constantly have to work at respecting each other’s new lives and finding a balance between business and personal. It’s an on going process but we will be friends for life and it is worth the extra effort in the end. Most people that break up get that “break” where they don’t have to see each other for a long time. We never got that, so I think we’ve done pretty well, all things considered.
That being said, I would like to thank Jamie for all of his hard work in working with me to make masc a reality. I would also like to thank all of our loyal customers- of course it is not possible without all of you. I would also like to thank Donovan for starting Homorazzi.com with me and for all of our talented, hardworking writers/friends that have helped make Homorazzi.com what it is today. Of course, thank you to YOU, all of our loyal readers- and Sunday Writers as well!
I have to say, I’m quite a happy camper right now. I quit a full time job I had been working at in addition to masc to focus only on being an entrepreneur. I also started Homorazzi.com with Donovan and am thrilled with the results so far. And, I didn’t forget about the acting – I also have an agent now and have been going on the occasional commercial audition. In fact, I have one today!
A lot of work ahead of me (us) but I am happy with the direction things are headed. xo