What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
I was trained as a chef in Toronto and overseen kitchens there for about 8 years. That was enough to make me realize that I wanted to work for myself, not someone else. My wife and I were also expecting a child, and I wanted to return to Stratford, my home town, and I hoped, live life at a slower pace. That last part definitely didn't happen, though! Candice and I work flat-out, all the time--because we love what we do.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Well, this won't be surprising, but it's true: it was finances. Cash flow can be very hard to manage when you're starting a business. Fortunately, I was able to turn to the Perth Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC)
for support, and they were great. They were there for exactly the kind of entrepreneurial support we needed.
When we first arrived back in Stratford about a decade ago, I worked at a few places to get a feel for the business/restaurant scene here, and I also bartended for the first time--I had managed bars, but not actually done bartending. All of this gave me the experience I needed to know what I wanted to do. Then I was able to approach CFDC with confidence.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I certainly did speak to a few mentors and close family friends who told me that I was crazy! They figured I didn't have any idea of what I was in for--and the truth is, I didn't. You never do. And that's good, because no one would take a chance on much of anything if they knew too much beforehand! You have to dive in.
I approached a wealthy older relative about borrowing money to help purchase our first business. He declined to lend me the money--but he gave me some direction that was, frankly, more valuable. He suggested I approach the current owner of the business we wanted to buy, and propose that we pay him the remaining money we needed to close the deal over the course of the first year we owned it. This so-called "vendor takeback" allowed us to buy the business, and gave the former owner some continued income from it for a year. It was a great idea--and it was that kind of outside-the-box thinking that has proven consistently valuable to Candice and me in our business dealings over the years.
Honestly, I don't regret anything we've done; I don't think either my wife or I would do much differently.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
The willingness and ability to dig right in and work in the businesses themselves. You really need to get into the trenches and work and know what's going on. You can't get someone else to do that for you.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Again, I don't know that I have a wish like that. Sometimes not knowing too much is an advantage--at least at first.
It makes you lighter and more daring.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Literally anything is possible--and, believe it or not, it's actually not all about money. That's important, as I said, but at least as important is focus and determination and a real willingness to get your hands dirty. If you don't have those things, money won't do much for you. It's about a vision you have for yourself. It's about a dream that you want enough to make it real.