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THE BACKGROUND

Ken Mikalauskas has always considered himself an "ideas man." The Toronto native thrived at various advertising and other creative firms after completing a degree in graphic arts and design.

He was a good worker but not a good employee. In the 15 years he spent working in Toronto, he felt restricted because he was not in the driver's seat. A desire to leave the city and change his lifestyle led him to accept an appointment at a firm in the Maritimes. Being an avid musician he was also attracted by the opportunity to work with companies such as Sabian Cymbals in Meductic, NB.

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Three years ago, as SGCI Communications started to lose momentum, Mr. Mikalauskas decided to quit his job and continue working with the firm as a freelancer. He then had to decide whether to get back into the job market or continue as a consultant.

THE CHALLENGE

Mr. Mikalauskas always had an entrepreneurial streak that he never nourished. He realized that the modern-day education system instilled a fear of entrepreneurship and steered students into corporate careers instead of encouraging the pursuit of dreams and passions.

Developing an idea was the easy part of the entrepreneurial process – the hard part was backing it up with a solid business plan. The transformation almost always needed money, and the more rigorous the business plan, the more likely it was to attract funding.

Mr. Mikalauskas found that navigating a startup is similar to driving a car at night: at first you can only see as far as your headlights allow, but the further you travel, the easier it is to navigate turns, potholes and other obstacles. A lesson he learned early in the journey was not to be afraid to turn the car around in the face of adversity and chalk it up as an experience. Another lesson was to balance the passion for an idea with what makes financial sense. It's where passion is tempered with good business reasoning.

THE RESULT

Working as a freelancer allowed Mr. Mikalauskas the opportunity to build his network and seek out assignments. One project led to another and before long he realized it was possible to "survive" on his own. He felt liberated, having developed a new-found confidence in his abilities and to chart his own destiny.

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It has been three years since he left his job at SGCI and started The Creative Department, and he is currently working on a number of technology, social network and media-related ventures. His advice to young people is to foster their entrepreneurial urge early in life and capitalize on their latent potential.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Nauman Farooqi is an associate professor and chair of the Research Ethics Board in the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies of Mount Allison University.

This is the latest in a regular series of case studies by a rotating group of business professors from across the country. They appear every Friday on the Your Business website.

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