Would you risk everything to launch a business? Thousands of entrepreneurs do just that every day, giving up the safe and predictable life to gamble their fortunes on their own business ventures. We gathered some of the most compelling stories for a new podcast, The Risk Takers, which launches today.
As The Globe and Mail's small business editor, I figured a podcast was the best way to capture the energy of Canadian entrepreneurs. The medium is intimate and emotional, perfect for capturing the unique stories in Canada's small business community. With the current podcast resurgence, and on the heels of Colour Code, The Globe's recent No. 1 iTunes podcast, it's a great time to craft stories in audio.
Together with my co-producer JP Davidson, we scoured our networks across the country, looking for interesting stories. We came across entrepreneurs such as Jen Evans, co-founder of Toronto marketing platform SqueezeCMM, whose business and personal life was plunged into chaos after she pursued a new line of business. We also met Cameron Reid, founder of OrderIt.ca, who fought tooth and nail for years against a rival food-delivery company. Along the way, we heard about the incredible joys of running a business – the independence, the thrill of competition, the satisfaction of bringing great products to market – as well as the dark side: the incredible toll on entrepreneurs' personal lives.
Listen to The Risk Takers at tgam.ca/TheRiskTakers or subscribe in iTunes, Google Play Music or wherever you download podcasts. To discuss the podcast on Twitter, use the hashtag #TheRisktakers. Episodes will be released weekly throughout October, which is Small Business Month.
Episode 1: Back from the grave
Toronto entrepreneur Jen Evans of SqueezeCMM had built a healthy company creating content for businesses. But a new opportunity seemed to have even more promise. Her clients wanted more information on how content was driving results, so Ms. Evans's company created software to measure that. But as her company shifted focus, traditional revenues dried up, leaving Ms. Evans with a cash crunch that threatened her business and her home. It's a situation that is all too familiar for Andrew Holden of Hamilton's Weever Apps. Mr. Holden created a flashy software product to allow small businesses to create their own apps. Despite investor and media attention, however, few clients were buying, and he was forced to make some tough decisions about the future of his company.
Episode 2: Fierce competition
As the founder of food delivery company OrderIt.ca, Cameron Reid fought against his better resourced competitor, publicly traded U.K. company Just Eat, for years. When Just Eat announced it was setting up in Vancouver, Mr. Reid moved his family across the country to set up camp there, beating his rival by a few months. But after years of battle, Mr. Reid received an offer that would make him rethink his relationship with his arch rival. Competition was also top of mind for Andrew Findlater when he launched his own company, Select Public Relations. Previously he had worked for a big PR firm, until he was laid off during the 2009 recession. It was a harsh blow, especially considering his wife was pregnant. When he launched his own firm, Mr. Findlater found himself in direct competition with his former employer.
Episode 3: Married to your business
What is it really like running a company with your spouse? Two Canadian couples speak about the unexpected dramas that happen when you hitch your personal and professional life together. For Shabnam and Frank Weber of Toronto, their support of each other helped them overcome obstacles as early entrants in the retail tea sector. But their united front became a downside as the Tea Emporium grew, and it became increasingly difficult to separate their personal and professional lives. For Caitlin MacGregor, being CEO of software firm Plum while being married to one of her co-founders meant she faced additional layers of scrutiny. Her credibility was often questioned, and investors wondered whether her husband was secretly pulling the strings. Things only got more complicated when Ms. MacGregor started pitching investors for money while visibly pregnant.
Episode 4: The dark side of entrepreneurship
For Halifax entrepreneur Michael DeVenney, 80-hour work weeks and the incredible pressure of managing his business advisory firm started to get to him. He was fainting and having regular blackouts in the office. Mr. DeVenney didn't want to get help for his problems; he only wanted to spend virtually every waking hour on his business. Today, on more solid ground, he's an outspoken critic of the current hype around entrepreneurship, which glamourizes high company growth rates. Vancouver entrepreneur Tod Maffin also knows the dark side of entrepreneurship. He experienced quick success as a young entrepreneur, taking a back-of-the-napkin idea to a publicly traded company in a few short years – while hosting a national radio show on the side. But working 16-hour days became an emotional roller coaster, and Mr. Maffin turned to alcohol to get by. After rebuilding his life and launching a new business, he is determined not to make the same mistakes again.
Episode 5: Business in Bali
Have you ever thought about ditching the cubicle life and setting up your own company somewhere warm and beautiful? In this episode, we take a trip to tropical Bali to meet some Canadians who've done just that. Steve Munroe's goal was to become a United Nations country director by age 38, and he managed to get offered the job when he was just 31. But as he moved up the ladder, he realized the jobs he had aspired to were "awful and bureaucratic." After several visits to Bali, Indonesia, he moved his family there. The island, made famous by the movie Eat, Pray, Love, is a magnet for expats on spiritual journeys. Mr. Munroe started a co-working space in Bali for expats called Hubud, which has become a vibrant hotspot for globally minded entrepreneurs. One of the business owners based there is Canadian Lydia Lee. After a breakdown in a Russian hotel room on a work trip, she ditched her business development job and launched a coaching firm. Today Ms. Lee's business, Screw the Cubicle, helps people escape 9-to-5 jobs to follow their passions.
Listen to The Risk Takers at tgam.ca/TheRiskTakers