I should be working on a new way for people to apply to be Taskrs with Nowtaskr, but who really wants to work on something complicated on a Saturday night. I started this blog for a few reasons, the first was to bring exposure to Nowtaskr. We had experimented with running a small blog on our website concerning interesting stories to help get some traction, but I found everything became sales focused. I didn’t like, nor wanted that. So I didn’t bother working on it for a few months. The thought of writing a blog came up again, but this time I wanted to write about something I cared about, and that care was the Entrepreneurial Spirit.
I just want to define what I mean by the Entrepreneurial Spirit. Jacquelyn Smith, a forbes writer summed it up pretty nicely – “Entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset. It’s an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It’s a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement.”
I’m a firm believer that the Entrepreneurial spirit is a key component to success. It is what drove our early ancestors to move further and further into the unknown, take leaps to learn about the world around them and made us what we are today. Some people are born with this spirit, and others gain it through a desire to change the status quo. The entrepreneurial spirit is a powerful thing, it can lift individuals out of poverty and shape the very essence of communities.
In my previous post, I talked a bit about my jobs, but I specifically want to tell you about businesses I have started in the past. I know, I’m talking a lot about myself in these posts so far. I am just trying to build a foundation for you about my beliefs and insight into starting a business, and it’s not always cut and dry.
I have been fortunate enough to be born into a family who were innately born with this entrepreneurial spirit. My earliest memories of entrepreneurs came from every member of my family. My father’s mother sold items at the flea market on Sundays, my father’s father would purchase and rebuild vehicles. My father has ran his own logistics company for a few years now. My mother, and her mother were always making something to sell before the holiday season, and being in craft shows while growing up was a common occurrence for me.
I have often thought back of my own earliest brush in with this spirit. When I was very young, I mean 6 or maybe 7 years old, there was a small convenience store at the end of the street. It belonged to a classmate’s family and I would often visit with no real money but the desire to buy some candy. I remember getting the courage to ask my classmate’s mother if she needed some help around the store. She took me up on my offer and I helped stack and replenished a few cases of merchandise. In return she would give me a $1 in which I would quickly spend it all on 1 cent candies in her store. This went on for a few weeks, something I was very grateful for that summer.
I had always helped out my mother and grandmother in whatever adventure they had going on, from selling watercolor prints, knitted children’s clothing, wooden signs or some direct sales business, they always kept me involved. I don’t remember having a lemonade stand, or anything of the like but I probably did it at one point or another.
In high school I was invited to partake in a business plan competition. It went quite well as we won the most innovating marketing concept in the national competition. When we returned back home to Sydney we decided to open the store with the teacher in charge of the program with our school, her daughter, and my family. We sold crafts and art from local artisans to visiting cruise ship passengers. Sydney’s harbor was and still is a very active one, and we established the store a short walk down the local boardwalk. It went as well as could be expected, I remember working every single day that summer for no pay and lots of stress.
By the end we had a falling out with our partners. I blame 90% of all issues in the world on communication, or lack there of, and this was no different. As I returned to school in that fall for my final year of high school, we closed down the store and I went to work for Wal-mart.
Cleaning public washrooms and pushing carts was not my ideal job, but I was a high school kid with his eyes set on going to the University of Toronto the following year. In September of 2005 I headed off to the big city. I didn’t find a job that first year and I was running desperately low on funds. I had a decent meal plan and a roof over my head as part of my residence, so I was never in a dire situation as much as some students find themselves.
What I did, however was find a way to use that entrepreneurial spirit and earn some spending money. I put together study notes and created a study guide with my own research for upcoming exams for my classes. I sold them to my fellow students for $15 – $25 a package, and it gave me enough spending money to enjoy the rest of the year.
My first business in the marathon of being a serial entrepreneur was a small hobby business known as Melnick-MacDonald Designs. I created silver and copper jewelry and sold it through etsy and a local store. I was taught how to make jewelry by my high school art teacher, Hardy Kalberlah. It was a great hobby that I did in my basement while still in the military.
When I left the military in 2014, I had to create my own business as I started consulting under the name of Indicium Geospatial. Indicium is latin for data, knowledge, indication, etc. So it was appropriate for a firm that consulted on geospatial data. I continued to make jewelry in the very early days of the firm, and was featured in Amazing Canadian Fashion magazine. An online startup in the US contacted me to design an unique series for their store. It was more than I wanted for a hobby business, I had no plans on becoming a full time jewelry designer, so I called it quits. Yes, even people with the entrepreneurial spirit can quit.
Since my focus was now solely on Indicium Geospatial, I started to bid on government contracts through several larger recruiting firms. I had managed to win a contract or two, but after bidding on close to 100 contracts in a year, I learned very quickly that it would be difficult to create a thriving business when you only had one true customer, the Government of Canada. I had wanted to create a business with, lets just say a larger target market. I had gained experience in the recruiting realm over the year and a bit I was focusing on growing Indicium Geospatial.
Recruiting and Temporary Help Services is a large market, with about $13.4 billion spent in 2016 in Canada. If you think that about 95% of that market is medium and larger business or government clients there is an opening there for someone who would like to do the same thing but for home owners and small businesses. It’s not profitable for a company like Adecco to target this small market segment, but I thought to myself I could.
The idea of Nowtaskr came from a combination of things, and I’ll tell you a few stories about how it came about. In the military, if a unit needed help with setting up for an event or just extra men, they called up a sister unit and basically requested X amount of guys for a day. It was a pretty simple system but it didn’t exist in the real world.
When Julianna was pregnant with our second daughter, Aurora, she was a supply teacher at the time and it was summer. She needed to find a short term job where she could earn some income over the summer months before going on maternity leave. No one would give her a job for less then 30 hours a week and she would have to continue working into the school year. There was no place she could get a job that would be flexible enough for her. She continued to put her effort in growing her small hobby business which is now known as Willow and Rose and it started her path into serial entrepreneurship.
I thought to myself, there had to be a place that someone could earn flexible income without creating their own side hustle. There wasn’t. For things like Uber or Lyft, you needed a car. Taskrabbit didn’t exist yet in Canada, and with our stringent employment rules, it would never be the same like it was in the US. Creating your own side hustle was tough for the average person, and next to impossible for someone without the spirit.
The gig economy has been all the rage for the past few years, but in essence you still took on all the risk, all the stress and all the effort with very little gain. It’s finally hitting mainstream media that working in the gig economy doesn’t pay well, and the pay per hour is often much lower then the minimum wage. That’s why I believe that the Flex economy will be the next path in the economy, and I’ll talk about that in another blog post once I get my head wrapped around it.
Now that you know a little about my own entrepreneurial spirit, let’s talk about why I think the entrepreneurial spirit is good for communities and economic development. I believe that entrepreneurship should be a required course in every high school. It wasn’t in mine, but I believe things are changing in the curriculum. I don’t necessary mean a course on how to build a business plan, but the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit to question current circumstances, and take action to change.
If you were to empower people of all ages, but specifically youth, a small percentage of these individuals will raise up to become leaders in their industries, create small businesses and jobs, and steer communities towards growth. Without this entrepreneurial spirit in the leaders of our communities, within our business groups, in municipal government and public servants, the status quo will be the one and only direction. We can not expect change if this entrepreneurial spirit is not allowed to grow.
It is my firm belief that embracing this entrepreneurial spirit, and taking actions to make it grow in not only yourself, but others will create stronger economics, stronger leaders, and stronger communities.