Seminar: People doing what they’re passionate about
And Merlinda Poon was looking for tips to take her invention to a new level. The 35-year-old computer scientist already has a business plan and a prototype for her device to assist the visually impaired scan and listen to documents. Now she needs to get patent protection, and find some funding.
“To be in a room full of people with ideas, walking around asking questions and getting information, it’s an energy level this community needs,” says George Brown, OCLF president. “I won’t sugarcoat it. They’re probably not going to earn much more than a living wage doing this. But they wouldn’t have it any other way. They get a tremendous sense of accomplishment.”
That’s what Nancy Brandsma is after. She just quit a stable, well-paying job to start promoting her own art and art classes.
“I was stressed out and dissatisfied,” says Brandsma, 33, who left her administrator job on May 1. “I didn’t want to live like that anymore, and I’d been thinking about it for a long time.”
She is working on a website to promote her services, and has already started gathering clients by offering to teach art to children in home day cares.
“I have no intention of becoming rich, I just want to do something I’m passionate about.”
Her husband, John Brandsma, is also trying to make a business out of pursuing his passion for fine art photography, but he is quick to point out that the couple is not “totally throwing caution to the wind.”
“We thought about the economy and we are cutting back a little on things like travel and entertainment and restaurants, plus I still have my day job,” says Brandsma, a graphic designer and web developer with Agriculture Canada. “We’ve never been lavish in our lifestyle anyway.”
The Art of the Start seminar is the second organized by OCLF vicepresident Ignacio Estefanell, who has also caught the entrepreneurship bug. Two years ago he launched Kickabout, a magazine about Ottawa’s soccer scene. Although there are many local organizations offering help with startup necessities such as business plans and feasibility studies, he saw a need for an event that would simply inspire. The first Art of the Start event was in October. They expected 25 people and got 80.
“Statistically, if you look at a list of the Fortune 500 companies, most were started in a recession or downturn,” says Daze, citing a statistic repeated often through the evening. “If you can start a business now and gain any sort of traction, you are going to be much stronger and healthier for it coming out of a downturn.”
Still, it’s not all rosy. In addition to Vincec of Blue Bamboo Yoga, the panel included Digital Lifeline, an on-site computer support company founded by Gerry Corcoran and Daniel Abramenko; and Dakima Intercultural Marketing and Communications, started by Urooj Qureshi. All four entrepreneurs cheerfully admitted they’re broke, or close to it — but said they are happier than they’ve ever been.
Perhaps they’ll be interested in a new resource OCRI is developing, a package of articles, courses and videos to help business people take advantage of current conditions.
It’s called Survive and Thrive.