"Fulfilling the Entrepreneurial Ambition" – GuelphToday.com Article (06/23/2017)
Updated: Jun 18, 2019
Give a young man $1,500 up front and another $1,500 at the back end of a venture, and you just might get three business startups, while inspiring through-the-roof entrepreneurial enthusiasm.
That appears to be the case with three 21-year-old Guelph post-secondary students whose business ideas each received a $3,000 jump-start from Ontario’s Summer Company Program.
The provincial program provides start-up money, business advice and mentorship to good business ideas, helping them grow over the summer months. Learn more here.
Working their tails off to get their small businesses off the ground is a far better alternative to working mind-numbing jobs, Adam Morris, Simon Lee, and Garrett Smith said in a group interview this week.
The money, they said, acted like a springboard to get them over a financial hurdle, making them able to purchase essential equipment to get their ideas off the ground.
Starting a business, they said, is inspiring and energizing, whereas work that is more grunt labour than creative endeavour saps entrepreneurial energy and dulls the sense of hope.
Morris is a graphic designer who has launched Adam Morris Graphic Design with the provincial money. Lee has started to build on his dream of operating his marketing agency Stud Monkey Media, something he has aspired to do since he was a kid. And Smith is ramping up his Garrett Smith Film and Photography business, something he more or less stumbled into and now can’t get enough of.
Morris said he has been freelancing in graphic design for a few years.
“But doing the Summer Company Program has prompted me to start it as an actual business,” he said. “Now I own a formal business. I’ve always been really interested in business, and had an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Simon Lee, as well, is driven by the entrepreneurial spirit. He said when he was younger he was greatly influenced by a relative who had a successful marketing agency.
“He lived a life that was absolutely extraordinary, and that really motivated me to think, why can’t I do this,” he said. “He has a level of confidence in his abilities and what he does that is something that I truly respect.”
There is something about marketing that Lee simply loves.
“I love everything about marketing, the details behind it, the art behind it,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing, and I love every moment of it.”
Garrett Smith said he dreamed of a career as a film-maker, but found film school extremely competitive and very difficult to break into. He said he “took the safe route” by studying business at the University of Guelph. But something about that spooked him.
“I saw myself going in the direction of leading a very mundane office life inside a cubicle,” he said. “It scared the hell out of me.”
After his second year studying business he was about to start a second summer as a factory worker.
“I was miserable, and I felt I was making no strides as far as setting myself up for anything meaningful,” he said. “I was getting a little worried about my future.”
While his parents were preparing to sell their home, Smith started chatting with the real estate photographer that came through the house. The photographer needed an assistant over the summer, so Smith shadowed him. On the side, he volunteered to do photography and video for various U of G varsity teams.
“I started to see that there was potential here,” he said. “I could use the skills that I already had, and the skills I was learning on the business side, and combine them with my creative interests. It was never really planned. It just fell into my lap.”
Money to buy equipment was a barrier. Summer Company helped him make the necessary capital investment and take his business to another level and make it as good as he envisioned it could be.
Lee said the Summer Company Program gave him the chance to fulfill his dream of going into business, and he intends to stay in business. He sees a lot of potential in what he’s doing, as do the other two.
“I do want to grow this into what I believe could be something much bigger,” Lee said. “I’m working on it, and we’ll see what happens.”
Graphic design is Morris’ passion, and he is treating the Summer Company Program as a four-month window to give his passion business wings.
“I’m going to push through it, and garner as many clients as I can during this time,” said Morris, who plans to return to his graphic design program at Humber College after the summer, while continuing to grow the business. “This is how I see my future, and it’s what I’d like to do with my life."
While the three businesses are independent, the three young men are becoming friends through the program and exploring ways to collaborate. When Smith talks to a potential client he drops Morris’ name as his graphic designer. When Lee sets out a marketing plan, he says he knows a very good photographer and film guy named Garrett Smith. At the same time, they push each other to do better.
“In business I’m finding more and more that connections are everything,” Smith said. “These guys really help inspire me to be the best I can.”
“Once you start,” said Lee, “then you think to yourself, okay, I’m in this, so let’s put 150 per cent into it. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
Earning a living from a startup business is not easy, but all three are starting to see the money come in. And they are earning by doing something they truly enjoy.
“This summer I may not be making as much money as I did last summer working a factory job,” said Lee. “But every morning when I get up I’m excited by the new day.”