Although entrepreneurship runs in my family, I never set out to be one myself. For me it was not out of choice that I became an entrepreneur, but out of need. I arrived in Canada in 1999 from Costa Rica, full of energy and eager to start my new life. Having worked as a graphic designer for almost 6 years in my home country, I had huge expectations of where I would take my creative career next. I thought it would be easy. I never struggled to find a job in Ticolandia – doors easily opened for me. I expected more of the same when I moved to Canada. But that was far from the case.
A few weeks into my new life, I began my job search. After weeks of applying for posted positions and without so much as receiving an interview, I slowly started to feel that my applications were being completely overlooked. How could this be? Back home I would have been a prime job candidate. Still, I kept trying. Months went by, and nothing happened. I was humbled. This was truly going to be the start of a whole new life for me.
I took on a handful of non-designer jobs. I did not realize it at the time, but this was my first step in becoming an entrepreneur. These jobs taught me important lessons and equipped me with valuable skills. Each of these jobs gave me practice in honing my English-speaking skills and provided me with opportunities to meet some very interesting people. Whether I was engaging in small talk with customers or longer chats with co-workers, I made it a point to get to know people, and I took the opportunity to tell them about my area of expertise. At the time, I thought that maybe somehow I would make a connection and find a job. Instead, what actually happened was that I would often be asked for my business card, which I did not yet have. Soon enough though, I took the hint and created my very first business card.
When I started my business, I was making calls from my brother’s home basement. I set up a Postal Box for my business address. I put over 100 kilometers on my car in one year visiting new clients; it was not always an easy road. There have been setbacks, failures, and reincarnations. But with each setback or reincarnation I reminded myself that I had already proved that I could build something from nothing, and so I kept going. And it kept working. This humble beginning to entrepreneurship for me has now evolved into a partner position with an international marketing agency.
Looking back, I know that humility and the ability to see hidden opportunities are what have gotten me as far as I have come. If asked my advice for newcomers to Canada who are contemplating starting their own business, I would stress these three things: 1) be prepared to put yourself out there; 2) talk to people and build relationships; and 3) a failure or a set-back is also an opportunity to remind yourself how far you have come and to reevaluate your direction.