The keys to en­tre­pre­neur­ial suc­cess

Mil­len­ni­als are us­ing dif­fer­ent tac­tics to gen­er­ate cash flow and get their busi­ness mov­ing

Toronto Star - - SMALL BUSINESS WEEK - CAMILLA COR­NELL SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR

An­thony Mor­gan, founder of Science Nin­jas Inc., was spend­ing six to eight hours at a day work­ing at the On­tario Science Cen­tre. Then he’d come home to con­cen­trate on his bur­geon­ing busi­ness, turn­ing science into per­for­mance art for tele­vi­sion shows such as Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s Daily Planet, YouTube videos (from which he gar­ners ad rev­enue), as well as events and cul­tural venues. His shows have been fea­tured at the ROM and Ry­er­son Uni­ver­sity, and on the CBC’s Steven and Chris.

The prob­lem: “Most of the peo­ple I needed to con­tact were not in the of­fice when I was able to call them,” he says. So a cou­ple of months ago, the 30-year-old took “a leap of faith” and quit his job to work on his busi­ness full-time.

It’s a move many mil­len­ni­als dream of mak­ing. But it’s not for the faint-hearted. Merid­ian Credit Union’s 2016 Small Busi­ness Bank­ing in On­tario sur­vey found 52 per cent of small-busi­ness own­ers flagged cash flow as their top con­cern.

When it comes to open­ing your own busi­ness, “It pays to be pre­pared,” says Toronto-based per­sonal fi­nance ex­pert and blog­ger Barry Choi, 34.

Read on for tips from those who’ve been there and done that.

Build an emer­gency fund

Be­fore launch­ing your busi­ness, pay down debt and build some cash “so you have a buf­fer” to get you through those early days.

Choi ad­vises set­ting up an au­to­matic with­drawal plan that feeds into a sep­a­rate sav­ings ac­count, even if you’re only set­ting aside $25 a pay­cheque.

Don’t rush to give up your day job

Daniel Lewis, 28, the co-owner of T by Daniel Inc., which sells a range of spe­cialty teas through farm­ers’ mar­kets and a small re­tail shop, was so en­thu­si­as­tic about his new busi­ness that he quit his man­age­rial job at Domino’s Pizza cold turkey in 2011.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong,” he says. “I lasted about three months. And then I had to get some work again.”

Work­ing through a temp agency proved the per­fect com­pro­mise for Lewis. It al­lowed him to fo­cus on the busi­ness and take work when he needed it to pay per­sonal bills and up­front busi­ness ex­penses, like in­cor­po­rat­ing and logo de­sign. Un­less you’re in­de­pen­dently wealthy, “the move to en­trepreneur­ship should be a tran­si­tion,” he says. “Let your job fund your busi­ness.”

Watch your ev­ery­day ex­penses

Keep­ing your per­sonal ex­penses lean can give you time to get your busi­ness up and run­ning, Choi says. But in or­der to cut back on costs, you have to know what you’re spend­ing in the first place.

“Track your spend­ing and then take a de­tailed, an­a­lyt­i­cal look at what you can ad­just,” he sug­gests, whether by cut­ting back on cell­phone ex­penses, jet­ti­son­ing the ve­hi­cle to take the TTC or nix­ing the daily non-fat Chai latte.

Mor­gan shops in in­de­pen­dent gro­cers rather than big-box chains.

And he lives on the bor­der of North York and Scar­bor­ough, where he pays just $500 a month for rent.

“That’s very af­ford­able,” he says. “But I’m still ac­ces­si­ble to the city.”

Turn that “stuff” into moolah

Worn cloth­ing, DVDs, fur­ni­ture, cell­phones and col­lectibles can all yield cash thanks to Craigslist, Inc., Ki­jiji and con­sign­ment stores, Choi points out.

As a guy who sold his ac­tion-fig­ure col­lec­tion on­line, he feels your pain. But, he says, “You’re us­ing that money to reach your next goal.”

Get a credit card that turns pur­chases into cash

Choi is a Loblaws/No Frills shop­per, so he uses a PC Fi­nan­cial World Elite MasterCard to earn points on pur­chases that can be used to­ward free gro­ceries.

If your job re­quires lots of busi­ness travel, on the other hand, you might look for a card that gives you travel ben­e­fits, he sug­gests.

And make sure you know ex­actly what you’re get­ting to avoid du­pli­cate pay­ments. “If your card in­cludes travel in­sur­ance, there’s no need to pay for that,” Choi says.

His caveat: no mat­ter which card you choose, pay your bills on time or the in­ter­est you pay will more than out­weigh any ben­e­fits.

Get a spot in an in­cu­ba­tor pro­gram

Toronto has many busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors and ac­cel­er­a­tors that aim to help star­tups get off the ground.

They can pro­vide ac­cess to valu­able perks such as shared equip­ment and ser­vices.

Mor­gan, for ex­am­ple, op­er­ates out of Ry­er­son Uni­ver­sity’s Trans­me­dia Zone (TMZ) lab, which gives him free of­fice space, ac­cess to cam­eras and light­ing equip­ment to make videos and stu­dent in­terns who are ea­ger to help.

By us­ing the lab, he has stu­dent sta­tus, “so I get a dis­count card on my Metropass and restau­rants,” he says. And there are lots of startup-re­lated work­shops of­fered through the Zone giv­ing free ad­vice — and food.

“You get to learn a lit­tle bit more about how to run a busi­ness,” says Mor­gan, “but you also get some free pizza, which is pretty cool.”

Con­sider your cus­pids

“The re­al­ity of run­ning a small com­pany is that you may not have health or den­tal in­sur­ance,” Mor­gan says. “You need to think of ways to man­age that ahead of time.”

If you have a spouse with ben­e­fits, that’s a bonus, he says.

But there are cheaper ways to get den­tal work done as well, namely be­com­ing a guinea pig for stu­dents at a school.

“Just this morn­ing, I was at the U of T den­tal school,” Mor­gan says.

“You can get dis­counted den­tal work done there and they have profs over­see­ing the stu­dents to make sure it’s done right.”

Put aside money for taxes

Guess what?

Your obli­ga­tion to the tax­man doesn’t go away just be­cause you’re self-em­ployed.

“As soon as I get paid, I put aside 25 per cent of that money for taxes in asep­a­rate ac­count,” Choi says. “And I don’t touch it.”

Get by with a lit­tle help from your friends

“You feel a bit breath­less when you give up your day job,” Mor­gan says. “It helps to have peo­ple around you who can sup­port you men­tally and maybe take you out to lunch now and then.

“You have to be hum­ble and will­ing to ac­cept help from any­one and ev­ery­one who of­fers it.”

SCIENCE NIN­JAS INC.

The Science Nin­jas Inc. team — Daniel Re, left, Steven Potvin, An­thony Mor­gan, Dashiel McGor­man, Emi John­son — suited up and ready for some street science ac­tion.

CBC

An­thony Mor­gan, right, dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on CBC’s Steven and Chris in 2013.

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