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Founder and CEO of O2E Brands, which includes home-service companies including 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

I fell into entrepreneurship as a way to pay for college. I needed money – fast – and junk removal was as good an idea as any. At first, it was a means to an end. Then I fell in love with what entrepreneurship gave me: purpose and control over my future.

I realized at a young age that I'd never be satisfied working for someone else. Even in school, I had a hard time being told what to do and where to be for eight hours a day. I don't derive my sense of purpose from climbing ladders or following the status quo. I'm happiest and most energized when I'm leading a team toward out-of-the-box goals.

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Every entrepreneur has their own story and reason for starting a business. Maybe it was a lifelong dream. Maybe they wanted to escape a dead-end job with limited opportunity. Maybe they were sick of working their lives away for someone else. Whatever the reason, entrepreneurship can give you a happier ending. Here are three entrepreneurs I know and admire who are proving it.

Own your future by owning a business

When Robert Herjavec came to Canada with his parents in 1970, they had nothing but a single suitcase. He waited tables and delivered newspapers growing up, barely scraping by in a foreign economy. He could have easily become one of millions of immigrants condemned to a life of poverty – but instead, he took control of his future by talking his way into a role at a tech company. He turned that experience into a business of his own and now, he's worth more than $200-million.

But he didn't do it for the money. Entrepreneurship for Mr. Herjavec was more than simply starting a business; it was an opportunity to rewrite his future. I felt the same way when I started out: I wanted to create a life I (and my family) could be proud of. It was never about making money (although that's a nice side effect of passion and focus) – it was about seizing opportunity and doing something meaningful with my time and energy.

You don't need a degree to start a business

Ryan Holmes wasn't always the founder of a billion-dollar tech company. He used to wash windows to make money, pinching his pennies to one day start his own business. After high school, he followed the status quo and enrolled in a business program – but from day one, he knew it wasn't right for him. He eventually dropped out to pursue his passion for entrepreneurship, and that's when he created Hootsuite.

A lot of people still believe you need a degree to be successful. But that's old hat; many of today's most successful people are dropouts (myself included). Entrepreneurship takes vision, passion and an unwavering commitment to goals. These are traits you either have or you don't; you can't find them in any textbook.

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The sky's your limit

Kim Rood used to be an unhappy corporate cog, stuck in a job he wasn't passionate about. Then he got laid off. Naturally, he started interviewing for similar roles, but then it hit him: The definition of crazy is doing something over and over and expecting a different result. Instead, he decided to take a chance on himself; now, he runs one of the most successful franchises in our WOW 1 DAY PAINTING system.

When you start a business, you're fully accountable for your (and your employees') life. It can be terrifying at times, but it's a good fear. I had that feeling when I first started out and it drove me to be a better entrepreneur.

Life's too short to spend it doing something that doesn't inspire you to achieve big things. But the only person holding you back is you. If you've ever thought of starting a business, it's up to you to change the narrative.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series. Find more stories at tgam.ca/careers and follow us @Globe_Careers.

‘Their sessions were an hour, an hour and a half long, every six to eight weeks, sometimes involved a plane trip, and the agenda’s were mailed in advance’ Special to Globe and Mail Update
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